This rich and creamy pumpkin pesto pasta bake is the perfect midweek supper dish. It’s also a two in one recipe as that delicious pumpkin pesto can be used in all sorts of other ways too. A real win, win situation here.
Pumpkin Pesto Pasta Bake
Pasta of any type is comfort food and that’s what we need at this time of year. Especially this year! Pumpkin to me is also comfort food.
Bring the two together in this delicious pumpkin pasta bake and you’re on to a winner really.
What Type Of Pasta
There is such a wide variety of pasta shapes out there and they all have their own specific uses. You want a pasta that will hold this rich and creamy pesto sauce.
I would suggest a Fusilli, Rigatoni, Rotini or Penne style pasta. The pasta I’ve used here is actually giant-sized Vesuvio pasta.
It’s all the nooks and crannies of these types of pasta that grabs on to the sauce and makes them perfect for this pasta bake dish.
I used a real pumpkin and roasted the flesh then pureed it to make my pumpkin pesto. You could of course cheat here if you just happened to have a can of pumpkin puree to hand.
Instead of using pine nuts I’ve used the pumpkin seeds themselves in my pesto.
Anyone who reads this blog regularly will know I am a real pesto fanatic. So much so I wrote a book about it;
With over 75 super easy recipes for making your own pesto using herbs, veggies and even weeds. There are fruit based dessert pestos too plus a selection of recipes showing you how to use your homemade pestos to their best advantage.
300g pumpkin flesh (please see my notes on how to safely peel a pumpkin)
3 cloves garlic
2 sage leaves and a sprig of rosemary
How to peel a pumpkin
It is so easy to end up cutting yourself when dealing with a large unwieldy vegetable like a pumpkin. The rounded shape means it can slip, the knife can fly out your hand and it can all end up in a bloody mess, literally.
Cut the pumpkin in half. Scoop out the seeds for later use. Cut the pieces of pumpkin into smaller blocks of flesh still with the skin attached.
When you have the pumpkin cut down into chunks about 5cm/2″ in size simply cut the skin off cleanly with a knife.
With this method you are not trying to remove the peel from any large pieces of pumpkin. Smaller pieces are so much easier (and safer) to deal with.
Making the Pumpkin Pesto
Place 300g of the pumpkin flesh chopped into cubes about 1cm in size onto a baking sheet along with the garlic cloves (unpeeled) rosemary and sage, salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
Bake for 20 minutes (or until that pumpkin is tender) then pop the garlic out of it’s skin.
Toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry pan for about 2-3 minutes. They will pop and jump about as they cook.
Don’t leave them unattended or they will burn. Whizz the pumpkin seeds in a mini food processor.
Add the garlic and whizz again and now add the pumpkin and grated parmesan.
Check your seasoning is as you like it and add enough olive oil to get a sauce of the consistency you prefer.
Why roast the garlic?
Roasting garlic like this renders it sweet and unctuous. Garlic loses that sharp bite it has when raw and takes on an amazing depth of flavour. This rich creamy garlic will make all the difference in taste to this creamy pumpkin pesto sauce.
Making the pasta bake
Boil a pan of water and once bubbling add plenty of salt. Ask any Italian Nono and she will tell you that pasta water should be as salty as the sea itself.
Toss in the pasta (approx 100g per person) and cook according to the packet instructions (shapes of pasta vary in cooking times) until the pasta is al dente. This means it is cooked but still retains a little bite to it. Not soft and soggy.
Drain the pasta and reserve about half a cup of the pasta water.
Stir the pumpkin pesto sauce through the pasta adding the pasta water.
In an oven-proof dish spoon some of the pasta/sauce mixture onto the bottom of the dish. Now lay on a layer of mozzarella slices and then more pasta pesto mix and more mozzarella.
Finally, sprinkle on some parmesan and reserved pumpkin seeds and a few snipped herbs and bake in a preheated oven for approximately 20 minutes.
What to serve with this pumpkin pesto pasta bake
I serve mine just with a simple green salad on the side. This is a filling enough pasta dish in it’s own right.
You could even serve this as a side dish with your Thanksgiving turkey or with any roast chicken or pork.
If you have any pumpkin pasta leftover you can use this cold in a salad the next day. Ideal for a lunch box.
Using pumpkin pesto
Stir some of this delicious pesto into simple tomato soup or add to minestrone soup.
Spread pumpkin pesto on to bruschetta or just on to plain toast for a delicious snack.
Stir some pumpkin pesto into mashed potatoes for a real autumnal treat.
Use the pesto as a dip for crudites, crisps and chips.
Spread your pesto as a base on a pizza, who says it always has to be tomato passata!
How long will the pumpkin pesto keep?
The pesto will keep in a jar in the fridge for up to a week or so. Just make sure that you put a layer of olive oil on the top of the jar before you pop a lid on it. The oil will stop air oxidising the pesto and losing its colour.
Looking for more pumpkin recipes to try? Then check these out before you go;
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Pumpkin Pesto Pasta Bake
- 300 g peeled and chopped (1cm cubes) pumpkin flesh
- 3 cloves unpeeled garlic
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 2 sage leaves
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- salt pepper to taste
- 3 tbsp pumpkin seeds
- 2 tbsp parmesan grated
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 200 g vesuvio or other pasta shapes
- 125 g mozzarella pulled into pieces
- 1 tbsp parmesan grated
- Roast the pumpkin with the garlic and herbs plus olive oil and seasoning at 200C for approx 20 minutes till pumpkin is tender. Allow to cool and pop garlic out of skins
- toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry pan over medium heat until they are golden and aromatic, about 3 minutes
- whizz 2 tbsp of the pumpkin seeds in mini food processor (save the rest to sprinkle on the pasta bake) then add the garlic and the pumpkin and whizz again. Add parmesan, seasoning and enough olive oil to make the consistency of pesto sauce you like
- boil a pan of water and add salt and pasta and cook according to manufacturers instructions till al dente, drain and reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water
- Mix the pesto with the pasta and the pasta water and spread on the bottom of oven-proof dish
- sprinkle over some pieces of mozzarella and top with more pasta and sauce mix then do the same again and finally sprinkle top of pasta bake with parmesan, some snipped herbs and the reserved pumpkin seeds
- bake at 180C for approximately 20 minutes till bubbling