Creamy vegan Pumpkin Pasta Carbonara is the ultimate fall dinner dish. This homemade cream sauce is actually made with cauliflower and pumpkin, but no one will guess that’s it's dairy-free and full of hidden veggies! This easy recipe is vegan with a gluten-free option.
Vegan Pumpkin Pasta Carbonara
I first made pasta carbonara at home while taking the Rouxbe Plant-Based Professional course a few years ago. The dish was made with penne pasta, a cashew cream sauce, peas, and smoked tofu. Of course, it was absolutely delicious, and it’s a dish that I always look forward to making.
I recently found myself craving pasta carbonara. I didn’t want to use all of the cashews that the Rouxbe recipe called for. While cashews can make a really creamy sauce, it’s possible to make cream sauces with blended boiled veggies, too. In this case, I decided to use cauliflower. Since it’s autumn and pumpkin is everywhere, I thought it would be fun to add pumpkin to the sauce, as well.
This one of my favorite comfort food dishes for chilly autumn evenings. I like to make extra so that I know I will have for meals throughout the week.
What is Pasta Carbonara?
Pasta carbonara is an Italian dish made with egg, cheese, and pancetta. Outside of Italy, it’s usually made with a cream sauce and bacon. Peas, broccoli, and leeks are often added. The pasta is usually spaghetti, fettuccini, or linguine.
There are different theories as to where the name carbonara came from. It could be that it is derived from the Italian word carbonaro, which means charcoal burner. Some believe that the dish was originally created so charcoal workers could have a hearty meal while they worked. It’s also possible that the name is derived from the word carbonada, which is the the word for bacon in central Italy's dialect.
Since meals were never very adventurous in my family when I was growing up, I never had pasta carbonara in my pre-vegetarian days. I do remember a college friend making it for dinner one night, and I had some without the bacon.
Even though it’s all the rage this season, pumpkin on its own doesn’t have too much flavor. It is loaded with nutrients, though. Pumpkin is:
- Rich in vitamins A, C, and E,
- High in minerals such as zinc, magnesium, and potassium
- Anti-inflammatory due to its high beta carotene content
- High in fiber, which is helpful for digestive issues
- Full of L-triptophan, which can trigger feelings of happiness and well-being
What You Need
- Sugar pumpkin or butternut squash
- Raw cashews
- Nutritional yeast
- Onion powder
- White wine
- Tempeh bacon
- Black pepper
- Sage leaves
See the recipe card for exact measurements.
How to make Vegan Pumpkin Pasta Carbonara
This dish might look a little daunting, but it's not very difficult. Since most of the preparation just involves boiling water, you can make the pasta, boil the veggies, and sauté the leeks all at the same time.
- First you place the pumpkin, cauliflower, onion, and cashews in a large pot, and you fill it with enough water to cover the vegetables plus about two inches.
- Then you bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat.
- You then reduce the heat and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are fork tender.
- Next you drain the vegetables and save the water.
- You allow the vegetables to cool slightly and then place them in a high-speed blender or food processor along with the nutritional yeast, garlic, onion powder, and salt. Add 2 cups of the reserved cooking water and blend until smooth and creamy.
- Next you heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the chopped leek and a pinch of salt, and cook until it begins to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the white wine to the pan and cook until it reduces slightly, about 2 or 3 minutes.
- Now you add the peas and tempeh bacon and stir to combine.
- Then you pour the blended sauce into the pan and cook until it begins to simmer. Add a little of the reserved cooking water if it becomes too thick.
- Finally, you remove from the heat and toss with the cooked pasta. Season your pasta with salt and pepper to taste.
Leeks are part of the onion family, but they have a milder flavor. They can be found year-round, but they’re really a spring vegetable. They’re usually in season from late winter to early spring. I like to use them instead of onions in spring dishes. Leeks tend to be really dirty, so make sure you wash them well.
When slicing your leeks, you want the white and light green parts. I clean them by placing the slices in a bowl of cold water for a few minutes. The slices are then scooped up, placed in a colander and rinsed.
Carbonara is traditionally made with long noodles, such as spaghetti or fettuccini, but I like to use smaller types of pasta, such as penne or shells. Shells are my favorite type of pasta for this vegan Pumpkin Pasta Carbonara, because they hold sauce really well.
I like to use whole grain pasta such as whole wheat pasta or brown rice pasta. If you follow a gluten-free diet, be sure to use gluten-free pasta.
This recipe is for vegan Pumpkin Pasta Carbonara, but hearty winter squash, such as butternut, can be used as well.
I like to make my own tempeh bacon, but you can use store-bought if you prefer.
The sauce can be made in advance, if you know you’re going to be pressed for time before dinner.
Vegan Pumpkin Pasta Carbonara
For the Sauce
- 2 cups chopped sugar pumpkin or butternut squash
- 2 cups chopped cauliflower
- ½ cup raw cashews
- ¼ cup chopped onion
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
For the Pasta
- 1 leek coarsely chopped
- Sea salt
- ½ cup dry white wine
- ½ cup peas thawed if frozen
- 8 ounces cooked tempeh bacon chopped
- 1 8-ounce package whole wheat or gluten-free pasta cooked according to the package directions
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- A few chopped fresh sage leaves for serving
- Place the pumpkin, cauliflower, onion, and cashews in a large pot. Fill it with enough water to cover the vegetables plus about two inches.
- Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce the heat and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are fork tender.
- Drain the vegetables and save the water. Allow the vegetables to cool slightly and then place them in a high-speed blender or food processor along with the nutritional yeast, garlic, onion powder, and salt. Add 2 cups of the reserved cooking water and blend until smooth and creamy. Add a little more water if the mixture is too thick. Keep in mind that it will thicken when it’s heated.
- Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the chopped leek and a pinch of salt, and cook until it begins to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the white wine to the pan and cook until it reduces slightly, about 2 or 3 minutes.
- Add the peas and tempeh bacon and stir to combine. Then pour the blended sauce into the pan and cook until it begins to simmer. Add a little of the reserved cooking water if it becomes too thick.
- Remove from the heat and toss with the cooked pasta. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide among 4 plates and top with the fresh sage. Serve hot.
More Savory Pumpkin Recipes You Might Like Include
More pasta recipes you might like include
- Chickpea Tetrazzini Casserole
- Creamy Mushroom Stroganoff
- Butternut Squash Casserole
- Butternut Squash Mac and Peas from Laura Theodore's Vegan-Ease