This Creamy Vegan Pumpkin Chestnut Pasta is probably the most delicious pasta dish I’ve made in a long time, maybe ever?!
Big statement I know. But seriously, I’ve made a lot of creamy vegan pasta dishes, (like this, this, this and this), so I have plenty with which to compare this dish. And it truly is something extra special! I just love the combination of the creamy pumpkin with the sweet, nutty chestnuts, aromatic sage and crispy breadcrumbs.
Whilst I do love summery pasta salads, there’s something so warming and comforting about a hot plate of pasta at the end of a long, cold and tiring day.
That’s the kind of vibe I was going for with my Gnocchi With Roasted Red Pepper Sauce. I have posted quite a few pumpkin recipes already this month (like this soup and this quinoa salad), but I’m really trying to make the most of all the seasonal fruit and veg at the moment!
I’ve actually made this pumpkin pasta dish twice in the last 48 hours because I loved it so much! The first time round I just made spaghetti with a creamy pumpkin sauce which was delish, but I decided to make a new and improved version the second time round, and added chestnuts and these amazing crispy breadcrumbs. The chestnuts and the breadcrumbs are completely optional, but they really make the dish so much more indulgent, so I’d really recommend it!
It might sound a little strange to add chestnuts to pasta, but their sweet, creamy nuttiness really compliments the flavour of the pumpkin. I’ve used pumpkin and chestnut before in this risotto, being inspired to create this combination because chestnuts (as well as pumpkins) are used a lot in Japanese cuisine, for savoury as well as sweet dishes.
Something else that inspired me to create this combination was this YouTube video of Gennaro Contaldo making an Italian pumpkin lasagne with chestnuts. It looked really delicious and I wanted to recreate it, but couldn’t be bothered to make a lasagne so made a pasta dish using similar flavours instead.
As a side note, I like to use kabocha pumpkin (a Japanese variety of squash) for this recipe, as it’s sweeter than other types of pumpkin or squash and has a softer, silkier texture. But don’t worry if you can’t get hold of it, normal pumpkin or butternut squash works fine too.
Another key ingredient in this pasta dish here is sage. It’s not really a herb I use very often in my cooking, but it really, really compliments the other flavours here. I was a little tentative about using it, so I did try this dish both with and without sage, and trust me, it was SO much better with the sage added!
I also added kale for some green colour, and also because for some reason creamy pasta sauces are just the perfect vehicle for kale, as it really manages to soak up all the other gorgeous flavours.
Now let’s talk about the breadcrumbs! I’d never really used or thought about adding breadcrumbs to pasta, until I recently started watching Jamie Oliver’s Money Saving Meals. It looked like a great idea, so I decided to recreate it in my kitchen. All you need to do is break up some (preferably stale) bread (you can use a food processor or just your bare hands), fry them for a couple of minutes in a little olive oil and you will have the most gorgeously crispy, crunchy breadcrumbs that are great for topping not only pasta dishes, but also soups (link) and salads, and even sprinkling on top of pasta bakes and lasagne!
My favourite type of bread to use for breadcrumbs is ciabatta, as it gets the crispiest, but you can really use whatever bread you have on hand – and the more stale it is, the better! If you’re gluten-free, you could use gluten-free bread to make the breadcrumbs, or substitute with roasted pumpkin seeds or toasted flaked almonds – I think either would serve well to add a contrastingly crunchy texture. A drizzle of chilli oil when serving would also be a great addition.
What I love most about this dish is that it’s just as creamy, comforting and satisfying as a regular carbonara for example, but you don’t feel queasy after eating it. It’s also vegan and gluten-free, so can be enjoyed by many more people.
It comes together fairly quickly – you can skip out the breadcrumbs if you’re really pressed for time. You can either use canned pumpkin purée or roast/boil a whole pumpkin when you have time, purée it all, divide it up into smaller portions and freeze it, which is what I like to do. Then when you really quickly want to whip yourself up a creamy pumpkin pasta sauce, all you need to do is open your freezer. Frozen pumpkin purée is useful not only for pasta dishes like this, but you can also use it for soups, risottos, or cakes.
However, if you do find yourself with a lot of time on your hands, I would suggest you go all out with this dish as there are so many ways to make it taste even better! Delicious trimmings to add include grilled chicken, bacon, spicy sausage, poached eggs (I tried this and I can confirm it is 100% delicious, especially when you get the yolk running all over your spaghetti and making the sauce extra creamy), meatballs, the world is your oyster!
If you try out this recipe or anything else from my blog, I’d love for you to take a photo and tag it #rhiansrecipes on Instagram! It would really make my day to see what you come up with!
- 2 portions pasta (I used brown rice spaghetti - ensure gluten-free if necessary)
- Handful of kale
- Handful of (frozen) chestnuts
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 1/2 teaspoon dried sage (or equivalent amount fresh sage)
- 80g pumpkin purée (either store-bought or make your own by boiling/roasting a pumpkin and blending until smooth)
- 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
- Salt + pepper, to taste
- 2 slices (stale) bread (I like to use ciabatta)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt + pepper, to taste
- Start by cooking the chestnuts - if using frozen chestnuts they'll need to be boiled. Chop them into smaller pieces, add to a pan with enough boiling water to cover. Cook for 15-20 minutes until chestnuts are softened. You can alternatively use ready-cooked chestnuts and skip out this step
- Next, cook the pasta according to instructions on the packet (if adding kale or any other vegetables, I like to just add them when boiling the pasta to make things easier)
- If making breadcrumbs, heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan
- Break the bread into very small pieces using either your hands or a food processor
- Add the breadcrumbs to the frying pan once the oil is hot, and season with salt and pepper
- Fry for a few minutes until crispy and golden brown, then transfer to a bowl and set aside
- In the same frying pan, heat up 2 tablespoons more olive oil and add the diced onion once the oil is hot, along with the sage
- Fry for around 5 minutes until onion is softened
- Add the pumpkin purée, almond milk and salt + pepper
- Cook for around 5 minutes, until the sauce is piping hot and bubbling
- Drain the pasta and add to the frying pan with the sauce. Add the chestnuts (break them into smaller pieces if you wish) and and mix well
- Serve onto plates and top with the breadcrumbs. It's also delicious drizzled with chilli oil
- Enjoy immediately!