That Spicy Chick

Spicy Pumpkin Vodka Pasta

This Spicy Pumpkin Vodka Pasta is made with a spicy and BOLD flavored tomato pumpkin cream sauce, juicy spicy Italian sausage, and ribbons of fresh Italian basil. It’s easy to make with canned or homemade pumpkin puree, spiced up a notch with Calabrian chili pepper paste, and is the perfect dinner for a fall gathering, your Thanksgiving table, or a cozy weeknight meal!

If you’re looking for a savory pumpkin fall recipe, I have just the perfect thing for you! It doesn’t get any better than this Spicy Pumpkin Vodka Pasta!

Don’t get me wrong, I do love my sweet pumpkin treats like this Pumpkin Spice Granola and Pumpkin Pecan Nut Bread. But I ADORE savory and spicy pumpkin dinners during fall to warm up my bones. Some favorites of mine are this cozy Hearty Chicken Pumpkin Soup, Spicy Pumpkin Chicken Tortilla Soup, and now this incredibly flavorful and delicious Spicy Pumpkin Vodka Pasta!

This recipe is a riff on my Spicy Vodka Pasta with Jumbo Shrimp. It has the same spicy and smoky flavors from Calabrian chili pepper paste, and is robustly rich and creamy. But this version is decked out with fall flavors with the addition of pumpkin puree and a generous sprinkling of cinnamon.

I added some cooked and sliced spicy Italian sausages to make the dish nice and filling. But turkey or sage sausage would totally be a winner in this fall themed pasta dish. Or you could leave out the sausage and use more pasta to make this vegetarian. Whatever you choose, it’s going to be a YUM FEST! 🤩

Since pumpkin tends to be on the sweeter side when it comes to veg choices, I like to spice up the sauce with fresh red chilies, crushed red pepper chili flakes, ground cayenne, and smoked paprika. But feel free to adjust these spice elements to taste and make this pumpkin alla vodka pasta as mild or spicy as YOU like! 🙌

Close-up front view of plate with Spicy Pumpkin Vodka Pasta with sausage discs.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Great for using up leftover pumpkin. It’s perfect for using up any leftover canned pumpkin puree you might have hanging around in your fridge. But you can also make it with homemade pumpkin puree.
  • Delicious spicy and smoky flavors, and not overly sweet! Calabrian chili pepper paste and hot smoked paprika work together to give the pumpkin cream sauce wonderful spicy and smoky flavors! The tomato paste also introduces a slight hint of tang, which then releases more spicy notes when the sauce is spiked with the vodka.
  • Flexible pasta choice. You can use either tube-shaped or noodle type pasta.
  • CREAMY and LUSCIOUS sauce! The sauce is incredibly smooth and creamy thanks to blending it. It coats the pasta just perfectly!

Ingredients

Labeled ingredients for Spicy Pumpkin Vodka Pasta" on a wooden board.
  • Sausage: I used uncured fully cooked spicy Italian sausage links, but turkey or sage sausage can be used instead too. If you’d like to make this pasta vegetarian, omit the sausage and use more pasta.
  • Pasta: I used mezze paccheri rigati, a thick tube-shaped pasta with ridges for the sauce to cling onto. But any other tube-shaped or noodle type pasta will work. (See ‘Variations’ section below for other pasta shape and type recommendations.)
  • Unsalted Butter: To help make the sauce rich and smooth.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Adds flavor depth, but a good quality olive oil can be used instead too.
  • Red Chilies (optional): I used plenty of Bird’s Eye chilies, but any small hot red chilies will work. Feel free to leave them out or use less if you’d like to make this pumpkin vodka pasta milder.
  • Calabrian Chili Pepper Paste/Sauce: A smoky and spicy chili sauce made with Italian hot chili peppers. It introduces a hot & spicy and zingy flavor to the pasta sauce! If you’re worried about having no other use for it, don’t be. It tastes great on meats, veggies, eggs, in sandwiches, and pretty much any type of savory food. It’s packaged in glass jars and can be found at Whole Foods, William Sonoma, and on Amazon.
  • Double Concentrated Tomato Paste: To add rich and bold tomato flavors to the sauce.
  • Canned Pumpkin Puree: I used canned pumpkin puree, but you can use roasted and pureed fresh pumpkin too. (See FAQs below for instructions on how to make homemade pumpkin puree). Just be sure to not use canned pumpkin pie filling, as it will have pumpkin pie spices in it.
  • Crushed Red Pepper Chili Flakes: Use more or less (or omit) based on your heat level preference.
  • Ground Cayenne: Ditto the above.
  • Smoked Paprika: To add smoky hot notes to the sauce! I used a hot smoked paprika, but you can use a sweet one instead if you prefer.
  • Ground Cinnamon: To add some warming tones to compliment the pumpkin.
  • Vodka: Any brand will work.
  • Heavy Cream: Also known as whipping cream or double cream. It makes the sauce silky and creamy, and has a minimum of 35% fat content per 100 grams. But for a slightly less rich and not as creamy sauce, you can use half-and-half or whole milk instead.
  • Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese: As always, I recommend using freshly grated cheese from a block so that it’ll melt more evenly in the sauce.
  • Italian Basil: To add a herby sparkle and round out the spicy and creamy flavors in the sauce. Alternatively, you can pan-fry fresh sage leaves in a bit of oil and top the dish with crispy sage instead if you like.

Full ingredient list and amounts are in the recipe card below.

Close-up of orange sauce pasta with sausage slices garnished with chopped basil.

How to Make Spicy Pumpkin Vodka Pasta

1. Cook the sausage. I used the boil-and-brown method for Niman Ranch fully cooked uncured spicy Italian sausages. This method results in juicy on the inside and crisp on the outside sausages.

It involves boiling the sausages in a deep skillet filled with water for a few minutes, then draining and cooking the sausages in a little bit of oil until browned. Note that you should always double check your package instructions for the sausages you’re using. They might have a slightly longer boil time – about 6-8 minutes instead of 3 if they are not already fully cooked.

Browning sausage links in a skillet, and sliced sausage discs on a cutting board.

Once the sausages have crisped up, transfer to a cutting board and allow to rest (while you cook the pasta) for a few minutes before slicing into discs.

2. Cook the pasta. In a pot of boiling salted water 2 minutes shy of al-dente. Reserve a cup of pasta water, then drain and set aside.

3. Sauté onion, garlic, fresh red chilies. In unsalted butter and extra virgin olive oil in a large deep sauté pan or stockpot, until fragrant.

4. Add the Calabrian chili pepper paste. Sauté briefly to combine.

5. Build the tomato pumpkin sauce. Add the tomato paste, pumpkin puree, and all of the spices and seasonings. Cook for a few minutes until the mixture has slightly darkened and thickened.

Blend. Add some of the reserved pasta water to a blender jug and transfer the tomato pumpkin mixture on top. (Or add the water to the pan and use a handheld immersion blender instead) Blend until smooth, then return the sauce to the pan and turn the heat back on.

6. Pour in the vodka to deglaze the pan. Let it cook for a minute or so until you can’t smell alcohol anymore.

Process steps to make pumpkin vodka cream sauce in a large pan.

7. Stir in the cream and cheese. Stir in the cream until combined well. If the sauce is too thick, you can stir in a little more of the reserved pasta water if needed to thin it out. Then add the cheese and mix until fully melted.

8. Add the pasta and sausage. Stir until everything is fully coated with the sauce.

9. Stir through basil. Then switch off the heat.

Added grated cheese to sauce, added pasta and sausage, and added basil to pan.

10. Serve! Divide evenly onto plates and garnish with more grated basil, grated cheese, and a drizzle of Calabrian chili oil from the jar if desired. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Top view of plate with Spicy Pumpkin Vodka Pasta garnished with grated cheese and basil.

Full detailed instructions are in the recipe card below.

Cook’s Tips

  • Use a good quality pasta. It’ll make the world of difference in terms of texture and taste better in the spicy vodka pumpkin cream sauce than regular everyday supermarket pasta. You’re also welcome to use fresh pasta, either store-bought or homemade.
  • Be careful when pouring the vodka into the pan. Use a measuring cup instead of pouring directly out of the bottle, and make sure the pan is not too hot. This’ll help you to avoid spills around the edges of the pan, which can be dangerous since vodka is highly flammable.
  • Use a large enough pan, Dutch oven, or a stockpot to make the sauce. In order to toss and combine the pasta with the sauce without breaking the pasta tubes, you’ll need quite a large pan. If you don’t have a very large deep sauté pan, make the sauce in a large Dutch oven or stockpot.
Fork in sliced sausage and pasta tube in plate with pasta.

FAQs

How to make homemade pumpkin puree for this pasta?

Cut a pumpkin (or other squash variety) in half and scoop out the seeds and stringy bits. Line a baking tray with aluminum foil and preheat oven to 200°C/400°F. Place the pumpkin flesh side up on the prepared tray and drizzle vegetable or avocado oil on top. Roast for 35-60 minutes, until the flesh starts to pull away from the skin and is tender enough to be easily pierced with a knife or fork. You should test in several spots to ensure it’s done.

Once cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and place in a food processor bowl. (You may need to do this in batches depending on the size of the pumpkin and your food processor bowl.) Process until very smooth – about 3-4 minutes. Measure out what you need for this pasta dish. Then transfer the rest to a sealed airtight container. Store in the fridge for 5-7 days or freeze for up to 3 months. You can make the pumpkin puree a few days in advance if you wish.

What to serve with pumpkin vodka pasta?

A simple side salad would pair well with this pumpkin vodka pasta. Since the sauce is so rich and creamy, something with a light vinaigrette will help cut through the rich and spicy flavors in the tomato pumpkin vodka cream sauce.

Which vodka to use?

Any brand of vodka you have on hand and enjoy drinking will work. If you don’t drink vodka, then go for one that is easily accessible to you. It doesn’t have to be something expensive or of super high quality.

Close-up front view of plate with pumpkin vodka pasta garnished with basil leaves and grated cheese.

Variations

  • Use a different type of pasta. Other short-cut tubed-shaped pastas I recommend are paccheri, rigatoni, pipe rigate, or rigatoni. For noodle type pasta options, bucatini, linguini, or pappardelle would taste great in the sauce.
  • Add cooked bacon. Crispy bacon pieces in addition to or instead of the sausage would taste terrific with the pumpkin cream sauce.
  • Add veggies. Baby spinach or baby kale to add some more nutrition.
  • Use a different cheese. Pecorino Romano instead of parmesan would work well. It would also slightly reduce the carb content.
  • Garnish with crispy sage. Pan-fry some fresh sage leaves in a bit of oil and add them to the sauce and use for garnish instead of fresh basil.
Top view of pumpkin cream sauce pasta in plate and close-up. Text overlay "Spicy Pumpkin Vodka Pasta with Juicy Italian Sausage" and "thatspicychick.com".

More Cozy Fall Dinners

More Delicious Pastas


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Close-up top view of plate with Spicy Pumpkin Vodka Pasta garnished with grated cheese and basil.

Spicy Pumpkin Vodka Pasta

This Spicy Pumpkin Vodka Pasta is made with a spicy and BOLD flavored tomato pumpkin cream sauce, juicy spicy Italian sausage, and ribbons of fresh Italian basil. Perfect for a fall dinner gathering, your Thanksgiving table, or a cozy weeknight meal!

  • Author: Lavina
  • Prep Time: 10
  • Cook Time: 35
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 5 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Sauté
  • Cuisine: American
Scale

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces / 340 grams Spicy Italian Sausage – I used pre-cooked sausages
  • 2 TSP Olive Oil (or any other cooking oil)
  • ½ medium Yellow Onion – thinly sliced into half moons
  • 6 Garlic cloves – minced
  • 214 Red Chilies (I used Bird’s Eye, but any small hot red chilies will work), to taste – finely chopped
  • ½ cup fresh Italian Basil Leaves – sliced into thin strips
  • 12 ounces / 340 grams dried Mezze Paccheri Rigati Pasta (or any other tube-shaped or noodle-type of pasta)
  • 2 TBLS Unsalted Butter
  • 2 TBLS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 4 TBLS Hot Calabrian Chili Pepper Paste/Sauce
  • 1 tube (4.5 ounces / 130 grams) Double Concentrated Tomato Paste
  • 1 can (15 ounces / 425 grams) Pumpkin Puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 2 TSP Kosher Salt, to taste
  • ½ TSP freshly cracked Black Pepper, to taste
  • 1.5 TSP Crushed Red Pepper Chili Flakes, to taste
  • 1 TSP Ground Cayenne, to taste
  • 1 TSP ground Cinnamon
  • ½ TSP Smoked Paprika (I used hot, but sweet smoked paprika would work too)
  • ½ TSP Dried Oregano
  • ½ TSP Light Brown Sugar
  • ¾1 cup Reserved Pasta Water, as needed
  • ¼ cup Vodka
  • ¾ cup + 1 TBLS / 200 ml Heavy Cream (Double/Whipping Cream with 35% fat content)
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese (or Parmesan)
  • To Serve: More grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese, more sliced Italian Basil, drizzle of chili oil from the jar of Calabrian Chili Pepper Paste/Sauce

Instructions

  1. Cook the sausage: Remove the sausages from the package they came in and place in a medium sized nonstick skillet or frying pan. Fill the pan with water until they are submerged. Place the skillet over high heat and boil for 3 minutes. Drain the water and add 2 teaspoons of olive oil to the skillet. Cook the sausages over medium heat until browned – about 6-10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes (while you prepare the fresh ingredients – step 2). Then slice the sausages into ½-inch wide discs, set aside.
  2. Prepare the fresh ingredients: Chop the onion, garlic, red chilies, and basil as indicated in the ‘Ingredients’ section.
  3. Cook the pasta: Cook the pasta in a large pot (or use the same deep sauté pan or large stockpot/Dutch oven you’ll use to make the sauce) with boiling salted water 2 minutes shy of al-dente according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, then drain and set aside. (I like to run cold water from the sink over the pasta to halt the cooking process and prevent them from sticking.)
  4. Sauté onion and aromatics: Heat 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter and 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a large deep sauté pan or stockpot/Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onion and garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes, until the onion has softened and the garlic is fragrant (but not browned). Then add the red chilies and sauté for 30 seconds to combine.
  5. Build the sauce: Add the Calabrian chili pepper paste and sauté briefly to combine. Then stir in the double concentrated tomato paste, pumpkin puree, and all of the spices and seasonings -the kosher salt, freshly cracked black pepper, crushed red pepper chili flakes, ground cayenne, ground cinnamon, smoked paprika, dried oregano flakes, and light brown sugar. Cook for 3-4 minutes, sautéing occasionally, until the tomato pumpkin mixture has slightly darkened and thickened. Then switch off the heat.
  6. Blend: Add ¾ cup of the reserved pasta water to a blender jug, then transfer the tomato pumpkin mixture to the jug. Cover and make sure that the cap is tented to let out any steam, then blend until smooth. (You may need to uncover in between to push down the ingredients 1-2 times.) Return the blended tomato pumpkin mixture to the pan. (Note: You can use an immersion handheld blender if you prefer. But I like to use a regular blender to avoid splatters and accidentally scratching my pan.)
  7. Deglaze the pan: Turn the heat back on to medium-high. After 20-30 seconds, pour in the vodka and stir to combine. Deglaze the pan for 1-2 minutes, until the alcohol burns off and you can’t smell it.
  8. Stir in cream and cheese: Stir in the heavy cream until combined well. If you feel the sauce is too thick, stir in more reserved pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Then add the grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and mix until fully melted and integrated in the sauce.
  9. Add the pasta and sausage: Add the cooked pasta and sausage and toss for 1-2 minutes, until everything is fully coated in the sauce.
  10. Stir through basil: Stir in the fresh Italian basil, then switch off the heat.
  11. To Serve: Divide evenly onto plates and garnish with more fresh basil, more grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese, and a drizzle of Calabrian chili oil from the pepper paste jar if desired. Serve immediately!

Notes

  1. Cooking the sausage. I used the boil and brown method for Niman Ranch fully cooked uncured spicy Italian sausages. But check your package instructions for the sausages you’re using. They might have a slightly longer boil time – about 6-8 minutes instead of 3 if they are not already fully cooked.
  2. Use a large enough pan, Dutch oven, or a stockpot to make the sauce. In order to toss and combine the pasta with the sauce without breaking the pasta tubes, you’ll need quite a large pan. If you don’t have a very large deep sauté pan, make the sauce in a large Dutch oven or stockpot.
  3. Be careful when pouring the vodka into the pan. Use a measuring cup instead of pouring directly out of the bottle, and make sure the pan is not too hot. This’ll prevent spills around the outside edges of the pan, which can be dangerous since vodka is highly flammable.
  4. Double Concentrated Tomato Paste. If using regular tomato paste, use a 6 ounce can instead.
  5. Heavy Cream. For a slightly less rich and not as creamy sauce, use half-and-half or whole milk instead.
  6. To make this vegetarian. Omit the sausage and use 1 pound of pasta.
  7. Storing. Store any leftovers in a sealed airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days. Reheat in the microwave on high for 2-3 minutes, stirring once in between, until hot throughout.
  8. To make and use homemade pumpkin puree for this pasta:
    1. Roast: Cut a pumpkin or butternut squash in half and scoop out the seeds and stringy bits. Line a baking tray with aluminum foil and preheat oven to 200°C/400°F. Place the pumpkin flesh side up on the prepared tray and drizzle vegetable or avocado oil on top. Roast for 35-60 minutes, until the flesh starts to pull away from the skin and is tender enough to be easily pierced with a knife or fork. You should test in several spots to ensure it’s done.
    2. Process: Once cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and place in a food processor bowl. (You may need to do this in batches depending on the size of the pumpkin and your food processor bowl.) Process until very smooth – about 3-4 minutes. Measure out what you need for this pasta dish. Then transfer the rest to a sealed airtight container. Store in the fridge for 5-7 days or freeze for up to 3 months. You can make the pumpkin puree a few days in advance if you wish.
  9. See post above for ‘Variations’ if you’d like to customize this dish and for more tips.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 plate
  • Calories: 698
  • Sugar: 11.7g
  • Sodium: 1798.5mg
  • Fat: 40.9g
  • Saturated Fat: 15.7g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 8g
  • Trans Fat: 0.5g
  • Carbohydrates: 95.7g
  • Fiber: 6.3g
  • Protein: 22.9g
  • Cholesterol: 50.7mg

The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary based on several factors. It should only be used as a general guideline. For more information, please see our Disclosure.

This post may contain affiliate links. We are a part of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you) by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary based on several factors. It should only be used as a general guideline. For more information, please see our Disclosure.

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