Pancetta-Sage Pumpkin Carbonara

By Elle Penner, RD MPH

If you’re ready to move on from the pumpkin spice latte but not entirely ready to abandon fall’s favorite squash just yet, this pumpkin carbonara is a must-try. This simple, 30-minute pasta dinner features whole-wheat noodles bathed in a creamy (but creamless!), nutrient-packed pumpkin sauce, topped with crispy pancetta and sage. Oh and Parmesan. Lots of Parmesan.

This pumpkin carbonara has quickly become a favorite around our house. Kids love it because it’s, well, pasta! “Orange spaghetti,” to be precise. Adults love it because of the pancetta-topped pasta but also because it’s packed with good-for-you nutrients like fiber, potassium, vitamin A and other antioxidants.

The sauce comes together in an instant thanks to canned pumpkin puree, and an immersion blender makes cleanup quick and easy. If you’re looking to save time during the week, this sauce also can be made ahead of time! Just refrigerate or freeze the pumpkin sauce, and when you’re ready to eat it, reheat it in a saucepan while your pasta cooks.

Whatever you do, don’t skip the pancetta. The salt and texture it adds makes the dish, but bacon also makes a pretty good backup if you can’t find a thick slab of pancetta at the deli counter.

Pancetta-Sage Pumpkin Carbonara



  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 ounces pancetta (Italian bacon), diced into cubes
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1 small (or ½ medium) onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pure pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 16 ounces whole-wheat pasta of choice (spaghetti, linguine, fettuccine, etc.)
  • ¼ cup finely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Generously salt water, add pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta water; set aside.
  2. While pasta cooks, heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add pancetta, reduce heat to medium and cook until crisp, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add sage and toss to coat, and cook until just starting to crisp, about 30 to 45 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pancetta and sage to a small bowl; set aside. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons pancetta fat.
  3. Return pan to the stove. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add chicken broth, pumpkin puree, salt, pepper and pumpkin pie spice and whisk until combined. Increase heat to medium-high and simmer 3 to 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Let cool slightly and puree (either in a standard blender or an immersion blender).
  4. Add cooked pasta to pumpkin sauce along with ¼ cup reserved pasta water and Parmesan cheese. Stir until sauce coats pasta, adding more pasta water as needed. Serve immediately topped with pancetta and sage, and additional grated Parmesan, salt and pepper (to taste).

Video & photo credit: Elle Penner, RD MPH


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Elle Penner, MPH RD

Elle Penner is a registered dietitian and former lead dietitian at MyFitnessPal, turned full-time writer, recipe creator, photographer, blogger and mama. Her favorite things include her camera, carbs, sweaty workouts and her son.