This Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta Is Total Comfort Food (With a Healthy, Dairy-Free Twist)

When the weather turns colder, I crave cozy, warming recipes. And of all the comfort foods out there, nothing hits the spot quite like a full bowl of pasta smothered in a creamy sauce. When it comes to pasta recipes, the options are truly endless. From the type of noodles to the plethora of sauces to all the many toppings you can try—pasta is the best. It’s also quick, affordable, and feeds the whole crew. What’s not to love? (Answer: nothing.)

The real question is, why aren’t we making pasta every night? Seriously—I’ve thrown all care and concern for the previously-vilified carbohydrates out the window and am turning to comfort with zero regrets. But of course, piles of rich, heavy pasta can start to not feel so great when you’re on your third serving. (Or enjoying it for the third night in a row.) That’s why I’ve been tinkering away in the kitchen, concocting healthier versions of some of my favorite, classic indulgences. And this creamy vegan butternut squash pasta might be my favorite healthy comfort food this fall and winter. Prepare yourself for major deliciousness ahead.

The Inspiration Behind This Vegan Butternut Squash Pasta

This vegan butternut squash pasta sauce recipe is inspired by my favorite pasta that I used to order at our neighborhood Italian joint. It was pretty much grown-up mac ‘n cheese. Picture a decadently cheesy sauce over soft, angel hair noodles. This version is a healthier take and earns bonus points for being both gluten and dairy-free. (Bonus: it’s so easy to prep.) It’s healthy enough to eat as often as you’d like without feeling weighed down from your pasta bender.

The Best Gluten-Free Pasta

For this recipe, I chose Banza angel hair chickpea noodles as the base. Out of all the grain-free pasta I’ve tried, this one wins in terms of texture and nutrition. These noodles are loaded with protein and fiber from chickpeas and are unbelievably satisfying. I’ve also found the brand’s penne noodles to be a win for this recipe. It’s safe to say that whatever type of noodle you have on hand should work just fine.

How to Create a Creamy Plant-Based Pasta Sauce

When I embarked on a mission to uncover the perfect dairy-free pasta sauce, I immediately turned to cashews. They have the ability to make anything creamy and rich without overpowering the flavor. When combined with the butternut squash sauce and dairy-free creamer, you get a delicious, rich base that’s smooth and buttery.

The “cheesiness” of the sauce is enhanced by the nutritional yeast and chickpea miso. Garlic adds an extra punch, and the vegetable broth helps it all blend into a smooth, velvety mixture that’s perfectly primed for coating the pasta. Make sure to save about a cup of pasta water before draining your pasta. This helps to help coat the noodles when you begin stirring in the sauce.

Choosing Your Pasta Toppings

So now let’s talk about the unsung heroes of pasta: the edible accessories we call toppings. While I’m all about garnishes, it’s possible to go overboard and take away from the actual dish. In this recipe, we have a combination of crispy bacon bits, fried sage leaves, shaved vegan parmesan, and red pepper flakes to round it all out.

This recipe makes a little bit of extra sauce which is great to store in the fridge as a go-to melted cheese substitute. It’s a little bit sweeter but is perfect with tacos, nachos, and more. The pasta is best served immediately and enjoyed warm. Time to dig in!


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This creamy butternut squash pasta is the lightened-up version of your favorite comfort food dish. It’s gluten- and dairy-free—and of course, delicious!

  • 12 ounces chickpea pasta (I used Banza)
  • 8 ounces bacon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 heaping cups butternut squash, cubed
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/3 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup Nut Pods dairy-free creamer (unflavored)
  • 2 tablespoons chickpea miso
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • Handful of fresh sage leaves
  • Salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • Optional toppings: red pepper flakes or vegan parmesan (I use Violife)

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Cut the butternut squash into cubes and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and transfer to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Roast for 35 minutes or until golden brown.
  2. Meanwhile, add bacon strips to a foil-lined baking sheet and bake until crispy, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel and set aside.
  3. Add 2 cups of cooked squash, 1/2 cup cashews, garlic cloves, vegetable broth, creamer, chickpea miso, nutritional yeast, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper to a blender. Add additional vegetable broth as needed and blend until creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Add pasta of choice to boiling water and cook according to package instructions. While the pasta is cooking, transfer your bacon strips to a bowl and break them up into small pieces using your fist. Once the pasta is cooked, drain the pasta in a colander but leave behind 1 cup of pasta water in the pot.
  5. Return the pasta to the pot with the pasta water and gradually pour in the sauce to coat the pasta (you will likely have extra). Once the pasta is creamy and completely coated with sauce, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper to taste.
  6. Heat oil in a small pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the sage leaves and fry until crispy. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Once cooled, scoop the pasta into bowls and top with the fried sage leaves and bacon bits.
  7. Optional: Top with shaved vegan parmesan and red pepper flakes. Serve warm and enjoy!

This post was originally published on December 6, 2020, and has since been updated.

Pumpkin Gnocchi Is Creamy, Comforting, and Everything We Love About Fall

Admittedly, I’m a sucker for all the pumpkin bread, cakes, and PSL’s that abound this time of year—but I also don’t want to neglect pumpkin’s savory side. Its inherent sweetness means that pumpkin balances out spice and salt in the perfect way, making it a great blank canvas to build upon in soups, salads, and as a sauce. Meet my favorite cozy recipe that is defining my fall this year: a sweet, savory, and herbal pumpkin gnocchi.

Imagine all the goodness of pumpkin in a creamy and warming savory sauce on little pillows of fluffy gnocchi. Yup, this is a one-pot creamy pumpkin gnocchi that comes together in 30 minutes. And I guarantee: it’s the most satisfying fall recipe you’ll find this season.

Ingredients for Creamy Pumpkin Gnocchi

Onions. The delicious base for any good recipe.

Garlic. You know the rule, measure garlic with your heart.

Cumin. I like the warmth that cumin adds to recipes. As always, we want to activate the flavor by cooking this with the onions and oil at the beginning.

Nutmeg. Entirely optional, but a little freshly grated nutmeg works so well for fall recipes. Plus, it’s a perfect pairing for pumpkin.

Thyme. Dried thyme adds a bit of warmth and savory flavor to the recipe. This pumpkin gnocchi tastes incomplete without it.

Tomato paste. The slightly sweet and savory flavor of tomato paste is the perfect way to round out the flavor of the pumpkin. Think of it like a pumpkin à la vodka sauce.

Pumpkin puree. While I consider this recipe foolproof, there’s one thing you could do that would completely mess it up. Do NOT use pumpkin pie mix. Just regular pumpkin purée. Not only is it the most iconic flavor of the season, but it’s packed with nutrients.

Vegetable broth. Pre-packaged broth will work great here. Opt for your favorite and use it to adjust the texture of the sauce.

Heavy cream. Sub with coconut milk if you prefer to keep your pumpkin gnocchi dairy-free or your favorite milk of choice. Personally, I love the silky texture that a splash of heavy cream adds to this sauce.

Lacinto kale. As always, this is a sneaky way to get in some extra greens while adding a bit of texture to the pasta.

Gnocchi. I’m going to be picky and tell you to use shelf-stable gnocchi. I find that when pan-fried instead of boiled, this version gets a crispy exterior that is much better than frozen or refrigerated gnocchi.

How to Prepare Your Gnocchi

This might be controversial, but boiled gnocchi might be one of my least favorite things to eat. I find most gnocchi to be incredibly dense and heavy, especially when covered in an equally rich sauce. It’s a nice indulgence, but when I’m hungry, I want to eat a full meal.

I recently discovered the joy of pan frying gnocchi, skipping the boiling pot of water entirely, and just letting the gnocchi cook through in a pan with a bit of oil. The gnocchi get super crispy and golden on the outside, and magically light and fluffy on the inside. No dense blobs of potato here. Instead, you get slightly airy and addictively crunchy bites that are just as delicious on their own as they are tossed in sauce. The best part is that the gnocchi retain some of their crunchy texture when tossed in sauce, so you get a bit of that textural contrast against the creamy and rich sauce.

I prepare the gnocchi separately when ready to serve—the sauce can sit on its own on the stovetop as long as you need—and just toss the gnocchi in the sauce at dinner time for the ultimate fresh, crunchy, creamy, and absolutely delicious dinner.

Tips for Storage and Reheating Leftovers

To store leftovers, keep soup in an airtight container in the fridge. Because the gnocchi absorb liquid in the fridge, the sauce becomes thicker overnight, so add extra vegetable broth when reheating. I prefer to reheat my pumpkin gnocchi in the microwave to avoid having too much liquid in the gnocchi.


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Saucy, creamy, and filled with all the fall flavors, this pumpkin gnocchi is the perfect autumn weeknight dinner. 

  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 can pumpkin purée
  • 16 ounces vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 17-ounce package of gnocchi
  • 1/2 bunch of kale, chopped
  • fried sage and parmesan for garnish

  1. Add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil to a large stovetop pot and bring to medium heat. Add the chopped onion and spices, salt, and pepper, to the pot and cook until the onion becomes translucent.

  2. Add the garlic and tomato paste to the pot and sauté until the tomato paste darkens to a brick red, about two minutes.

  3. Add the pumpkin purée and stir to combine. Let the pumpkin heat through before adding the broth a little at a time, stirring as you pour the broth in to ensure all the pumpkin gets combined. Bring to a simmer and let cook for about 15 minutes to reduce and thicken the sauce slightly.

  4. While the sauce cooks, prepare the gnocchi. In a large stovetop pan, add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and bring to medium heat. Add the gnocchi dry (do not use fresh or boiled gnocchi), and sauté for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the gnocchi have developed a crisp golden exterior. Remove from the heat.

  5. To finish the sauce, add heavy cream to the pumpkin sauce and stir. Optional, but for a smoother sauce, use an immersion blender or add the pumpkin sauce to a blender and blend until smooth. Be careful, the sauce is hot!

  6. To serve, add the kale and gnocchi to the pumpkin sauce and stir to coat.

  7. Top with fried sage and/or parmesan cheese, enjoy!

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes