This has got to be one of my favorite dishes of 2020. Pretty much all of my favorite things are combined into one— pumpkin, pasta, cheese, Italian sausage. Oh, and sage. Sage is my favorite fall/winter herb; it adds SO MUCH flavor. If you want comfort food, but you also want sneaky veggies + nutrients, this cheesy sausage and pumpkin pasta bake is the meal for you. I admit, pumpkin may seem like a bit of an odd addition to pasta. But I promise it makes the creamiest, smoothest sauce that actually doesn’t really remind me of pumpkin at all. You have to try!
Keep it simple
You know me, I don’t like over-involved recipes. While I love cooking and being in the kitchen, I like quality time with loved ones more. So this pumpkin pasta bake keeps things simple— you’ll be in the kitchen for less than 30 minutes, and then your oven does the rest of the work.
And sometimes, I really want to eat a lot of veggies without having to chop for 20 minutes. The beauty of this recipe? Pumpkin and spinach are two veggies that you can basically just dump into the pan and you’re done. I end up just tearing the spinach with my hands, so no chopping required.
Give me all the cheese + carbs….. but also lots of nourishment please!
In my journey to develop a healthier relationship with food and adopt an all foods fit mentality, I’ve gotten waaaay more comfortable eating very cheesy + carb-heavy foods. But my Dietetics background always has me thinking about ways to sneak more nutrients into recipes. My approach toward food and health is focused on balance. I’m 100% comfortable consuming cheese + pasta + heavy cream + Italian sausage, but I truly enjoy eating these foods more when they also include unique flavors + textures, bright colors, and extra nutrients (ie. pumpkin, spinach, sage, garlic, onion, etc).
This meal is packed with vitamin A and Vitamin C. And it’s got a good amount of fiber, protein, and calcium. Yes, the Italian sausage, cream, and cheese bump up the fat content, but we are about balance here at Nourish with Nik. And this cheesy sausage + pumpkin pasta bake is a shining example of that!
With that being said, you can always make ingredient swaps. Whether you have a health condition or you simply have different preferences, here are some ideas:
- Ground turkey ↔ Italian sausage
- Non-dairy milk ↔ Heavy cream
- Gluten-free pasta
- Vegan cheese, or another type of cheese, or omit the cheese altogether
As always, I encourage you to make recipes your own! Use up what you have in your fridge, adapt the recipe to your own preferences, and get creative 🙂
Cheesy Sausage and Pumpkin Pasta Bake
Serving Size: 8
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Bake Time: 20 minutes
- 1 lb rigatone
- 1 can (15 oz) pumpkin
- 1 lb ground Italian sausage
- 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
- 1/2 cup heavy cream (or whole milk or half + half)
- 1 onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons fresh sage
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 handfuls of spinach, chopped or torn
- 3 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly coat a 9×13 pan with non-stick cooking spray.
- In a large skillet, brown sausage over medium-high heat. After about 7-8 minutes, reduce heat to medium and add onion, garlic, herbs, and spices. Stir together and cook for 2-3 minutes more.
- Add pumpkin, broth, and cream (or milk). Simmer for 5-10 minutes to thicken sauce, stirring occasionally. You should see a few bubbles here and there, but sauce should not be boiling. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package instructions until al dente.
- Once sauce has thickened, turn off heat, and add in the pasta, spinach, and 2 cups of mozzarella. Stir to combine. Pour into 9×13 baking dish and top with 1 cup mozzarella. Bake for 20 minutes, turning the oven on broil for the last five minutes or until cheese is melted and a light golden brown.
If you liked this recipe, you’d probably also love my Easy Creamy Broccoli Cheddar Soup or Warming Sweet Potato Sage Turkey Chili!
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