This sauce came to be when I opened up my refrigerator and saw a jar of leftover pumpkin purée next to leftover diced tomatoes. They reminded me of a pasta sauce I bought at Trader Joe’s last year, called Autumnal Harvest Pasta Sauce.
“Autumnal Harvest Pasta Sauce” might be a more accurate title for this recipe, since it’s not overtly pumpkin-flavored. It’s a mouthful, though!
This sauce tastes like fall, with a hint of spice. The bell pepper’s flavor really shines through, so if you want a more pumpkin-y sauce, omit the pepper. Maybe add some extra cinnamon, too, since “pumpkin spice” flavor is more about the spice than the pumpkin. While pumpkin doesn’t offer a lot in the flavor department, it does make this blended sauce nice and creamy, without any cream.
This sauce is comforting like mac and cheese, but full of vegetables. It’s the perfect way to warm up on a chilly fall evening. I hope you love it like I do! If you’re craving more savory pumpkin recipes, try my pumpkin fettuccine Alfredo and roasted pumpkin soup, or view all of my pumpkin recipes here.
Creamy Pumpkin Marinara
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 25 minutes
- Yield: 4 cups 1x
- Category: Sauce
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Italian
This pumpkin marinara recipe tastes like fall. It’s comforting like mac and cheese, but lighter and full of vegetables! Just add pasta. Recipe yields about 4 cups sauce (enough to generously coat 12 ounces/4 modest servings of pasta).
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- ½ teaspoon salt, divided
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon dried tarragon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 can (15 ounces) diced or crushed tomatoes
- 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin purée
- 1 to 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 to 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Finely grated Parmesan and chopped fresh parsley, for garnish (both optional)
- Warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once it’s shimmering, add the onion, bell pepper and ¼ teaspoon of the salt. Cook, stirring often, until the onions and pepper are very tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
- Add the garlic, oregano, tarragon, and cinnamon. While stirring, cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and cook for 1 minute, while stirring. Add the pumpkin purée and stir to combine. Continue simmering for 5 minutes, then remove it from the heat.
- Carefully transfer the mixture to your blender. Add 1 tablespoon butter and 1 teaspoon vinegar. Blend until very smooth and creamy.
- Season generously with freshly ground black pepper and additional salt (I usually add another ¼ teaspoon salt). For a more luxurious sauce, add another tablespoon of butter, or for more tangy complexity, add another teaspoon of vinegar. Blend to combine.
- Stir into warm pasta. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan and chopped parsley on top.
Make it dairy free/vegan: Omit the butter or blend in olive oil instead. Use vegan Parmesan or omit it.
Make it gluten free: This sauce is gluten free. Just serve it over gluten-free pasta.