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This penne pasta with chicken sausage baked in a velvety, creamy pumpkin sauce is the ultimate fall comfort food! Pumpkin Penne with Cream Sauce is a delicious and gluten free, all-in-one meal that’s satisfying, wholesome, and perfect to make for the family as an easy weeknight dinner.
Creamy Pumpkin Pasta with Chicken Sausage
I think pasta might be one of my love languages. The first time I made this recipe for a creamy pumpkin penne casserole, I’d hoped that a home cooked meal might help lighten the load of a neighbor who was going through a difficult time. I now make it often, and always with a good dose of love! Like my best ever homemade lasagna or it’s gluten free version, this pasta recipe is like my own little act of service to myself and the family.
Baked penne with pumpkin cream sauce and chicken sausage is a hearty and comforting, family-friendly casserole with all the best flavors of fall: from the savory hint of pumpkin in the sauce to the bits of sweet apple in the gluten-free chicken sausage. This dish is really the perfect balance of healthy meets creamy indulgence.
What You’ll Need
This easy pumpkin pasta bake starts with a whole wheat or whole grain gluten free pasta (I like ones that are quinoa-based), and then comes together with a creamy pumpkin sauce. Here are the ingredients needed for this casserole:
- Apple Chicken Sausage: Fully cooked and cut into half inch cubes.
- Penne Pasta: Regular or gluten free penne noodles, cooked al dente per the package instructions.
- Pumpkin Puree: Make sure you get pure pumpkin puree and not pumpkin pie filling!
- Parmesan Cheese: Divided to use in the cream sauce as well as when serving.
- Chicken Broth: Alternatively, vegetable broth.
- Garlic, minced
- Sage, finely chopped
- Frozen Peas
- Half and Half
- Salt & Pepper
Do I Have to Use Penne Pasta?
No penne? No problem! There are lots of other short-cut pasta noodles that will work just as well with this recipe, to name a few:
How to Make Pumpkin Pasta with Cream Sauce
The best thing about a casserole is that it’s an all-in-one family meal that’s just so simple to make and bake! Here’s how you make this easy, creamy pumpkin penne:
Cook the Pasta: While you’re preparing your sauce, cook the pasta al dente following the package directions.
Prepare the Sauce: To start the sauce, saute the garlic and sage in butter for a minute or two. Stir in the half and half, broth, pumpkin puree, and nutmeg, then simmer to thicken.
Combine All Ingredients: Add in the parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. Remove the sauce from the heat before adding the penne, peas, and sausage, stirring to coat everything evenly.
Bake: Spoon the pasta into a baking dish coated in cooking spray, give it a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, and then bake until the casserole is heated through and the top is golden brown.
Tips for Success
Use Dry Pasta: Good, old-fashioned, dry pasta noodles are best for this casserole (penne or otherwise). If you do use a variation of fresh pasta for this recipe, leave the pasta uncooked before baking.
Salt Your Pasta Water: Add salt to the water you’ll boil the pasta in – and be generous! Well-salted pasta water is the key to well-seasoned pasta.
Let the Casserole Rest After Baking: Once it’s out of the oven, give your pumpkin penne a chance to rest before serving so that the sauce has a chance to set up a bit. Usually, 5-10 minutes will do the trick.
Another beautiful thing about a penne pasta bake? How easy it is to mix it up! This pumpkin penne recipe allows for so many opportunities to make it your own:
- Swap out your choice of protein with pork or turkey sausage, alternatively roasted or grilled chicken slices or diced smoky bacon
- Make a vegetarian pasta by swapping the chicken broth with vegetable broth, and fresh veggies instead of meat; sliced carrots or zucchini, roasted Brussels sprouts, broccoli, chopped kale, etc.
- Pumpkin can be substituted with pureed butternut squash or sweet potato
- Add in more fresh herbs, like thyme or rosemary, for extra aromatic flavor
Make this recipe dairy free by replacing the half and half with your choice of dairy alternative and leaving out the parmesan cheese.
For an extra cheesy and creamy sauce, stir in a spoonful of ricotta, or add in chunks of feta or goat cheese.
How to Store and Reheat Leftovers
Leftovers of this pumpkin penne dish will keep in an airtight container, in the fridge for up to 3-5 days. To reheat a pasta bake in the oven, place the penne in an oven-safe dish, cover it with foil, and bake until it’s nice and hot again. Otherwise, pop leftovers in the microwave for a few minutes until reheated.
Can I Freeze Pumpkin Pasta?
After it’s cooled, baked pumpkin pasta can be kept frozen in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. Allow the pasta to thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating in microwave, or in the oven at 350°F until heated through.
More Healthy Pasta Recipes
Try these other easy pasta dishes packed with bold flavors and fresh, healthy ingredients!
- Fettuccine Pumpkin Cauliflower Alfredo (Cauli-Fredo)
- Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese
- Lightened-Up Penne and Tomato Cream Sauce with Peas & Prosciutto
- Italian Noodle Casserole
- Eggplant Parmesan Pasta Casserole
Pumpkin Penne with Cream Sauce
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 10 sage leaves, finely chopped
- 1 cup half and half
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 cup pumpkin
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 3/4 cup parmesan cheese, divided into 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 6 links fully-cooked Apple Chicken Sausage, quartered lengthwise and cut into about half inch cubes
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
- 8 oz. penne pasta (gluten free if needed), cooked to al dente per package instructions
- Preheat over to 350°F, and coat a 2 quart casserole dish with cooking spray or oil.
- While preparing the sauce, cook the pasta to al dente according to package directions, drain, and set aside.
- To prepare the sauce, melt butter in a large, shallow saucepan over medium heat, and add the garlic and sage. Cook for a couple minutes to allow the flavors and aromas to release.
- Add the half and half, chicken broth, pumpkin, and nutmeg. Over medium-low heat, bring to a summer and cook several minutes until thickened slightly.
- Stir in 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. Remove from the heat.
- Add pasta, peas, and sausage to the sauce and stir to coat completely.
- Transfer the pasta to the prepared casserole dish, and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup parmesan cheese.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until heated through, and lightly browned on the top.