Amazingly Creamy Pumpkin Penne

I’m always on the prowl for healthy substitutions. One of the hardest thing to substitute for someone trying to watch their fat and calorie in take has got to be cream. Creamy sauces just seem to be a no-no – sure, you can try to get away with fat free half and half (what IS that?), evaporated skim milk, and some others, but I have never been all that impressed. Until I tried cottage cheese tonight. For the first time, I’ve been keeping cottage cheese in the house. I’m usually not a big fan, but I’m trying to incorporate it as a non-carbohydrate-heavy snack or breakfast as needed. As an added benefit, it’s low in fat and a good source of protein. Tonight I got the bright idea to use it as a base for a creamy sauce. Believe it or not, after pureeing out all the curds, this actually makes a wonderful substitute for heavy cream. This was by far the creamiest non-cream sauce I’ve ever made, and much healthier than the real thing. It was pretty darn delicious, too. Even my husband, who probably wouldn’t touch cottage cheese normally, loved the taste of this pasta dish. I will definitely be trying this in other creamy pastas, such as penne a la vodka. I’m so happy that I tried this, and that it worked!

Amazingly Creamy Pumpkin Penne
Printable Recipe

Ingredients
4 oz penne pasta
2 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced (about 75gm)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
about 2T chopped fresh sage
2 links cooked chicken sausage, sliced (see note)
1/2 cup low fat cottage cheese (1% milk fat)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup nonfat milk
pinch of nutmeg
5oz torn spinach, thick stems removed
grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese, optional

Directions
Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook gently for about 10-15minutes, until softened and beginning to caramelize. Add garlic, sage, and chicken sausage; continue to saute.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions.

In a blender, combine combine pumpkin, cottage cheese, and milk. Blend until no lumps are present. Add to sausage mixture in skillet and continue to cook over low heat. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg.

Drain pasta and return to pot over low heat. Add sausage mixture and baby spinach, and toss together. Cover for a few minutes to let the spinach wilt. Serve with parmesan cheese, if desired.

Note: People have asked me what kind of chicken sausage to use. I don’t think there’s one right answer! The chicken sausage I most often have on hand is one I buy at Sam’s club – it’ a spinach and asiago flavor. But, I’ve also been told the dish is great with an apple chicken sausage too. Pumpkin is very versatile and pairs will with sweet or savory, so you can’t go wrong!

Nutritional Info*
Servings Per Recipe: 2
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 452.1
Total Fat: 12.9 g
Cholesterol: 73.7 mg
Sodium: 1,062.6 mg
Total Carbs: 59.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 10.1 g
Protein: 32.9 g

* This might vary a little based on what kind of pasta you use, and a lot based on what kind of sausage you use. I did my calculation using Ronzoni Healthy Harvest penne, and the chicken sausage links I have used here each have 110 calories, 4.5gm fat, 1gm carbohydrates and 15gm protein.

For giggles, here’s the old photo. Not to brag, but I think my skills have improved a little bit!


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45 Responses to “Amazingly Creamy Pumpkin Penne”

  1. 1

    Kelsey — August 15, 2008 @ 2:28 am Reply

    I love the cottage cheese idea. Thanks!

  2. 2

    Joelen — August 15, 2008 @ 1:01 pm Reply

    you’ve got me hooked on pumpkin oatmeal, so I’ll need to try this next!

  3. 3

    Elly — August 15, 2008 @ 9:31 pm Reply

    I’ve only used the cottage cheese thing for mac and cheese, but I’ll have to try it out in place of cream. It looks so tasty!

  4. 4

    Dori — August 16, 2008 @ 10:56 am Reply

    fat-free ricotta would prob do a similar job. i’m def going to try the cottage cheese thing though. good tip!

  5. 5

    The DeL Sisters — August 16, 2008 @ 9:17 pm Reply

    Yummy I love pumpkin!

  6. 6

    Cate — August 19, 2008 @ 6:49 pm Reply

    This looks so perfect for fall, and I love that it’s healthy!

  7. 7

    maybelle's mom — August 21, 2008 @ 9:59 pm Reply

    cottage cheese, I would have never guessed.

  8. 8

    Megan — September 5, 2008 @ 4:15 pm Reply

    I have a recipe that uses cottage cheese and oatmeal as a base for pancakes. It’s super, super good! PM me if you want it.

  9. 9

    Nicole — October 19, 2009 @ 5:44 pm Reply

    I made this last night and it was excellent. My husband and I loved it.

  10. 10

    Runner Leana — October 27, 2009 @ 1:01 am Reply

    Yum, just made it this evening and it was so good! Love the cottage cheese idea!

  11. 11

    Sarah — November 12, 2009 @ 4:25 pm Reply

    Looking forward to trying this one. I was also just wondering if you have a general rule about substituting cottage cheese for cream in your recipes — do you just add the same amount of pureed cottage cheese?

  12. 12

    Cara — November 12, 2009 @ 4:32 pm Reply

    Hi Sarah, thanks for stopping by! Good question. I think most of the recipes I have used cottage cheese in are original, so I'm not working with an amount of cream I am trying to substitute for. If I were, however, I think I would do half cottage cheese and half milk, blended together, in place of cream. So if a recipe called for 1 cup of cream I'd do try using 1/2 cup cottage cheese and 1/2 cup milk blended together. Hope this help!

  13. 13

    imasugarjunkie — March 3, 2010 @ 1:17 am Reply

    I just made this the other day and it was so good! I had to leave out the cottage cheese due to a milk allergy but soy milk and a bit of extra pumpkin and it was still so good!

  14. 14

    FactBased WeightLoss — March 27, 2011 @ 3:07 am Reply

    Must. Try. This. I looooove anything with pumpkin in it and this sounds amazing. Thanks!

  15. 15

    Cara — March 27, 2011 @ 3:07 am Reply

    It is so good – one of our favorites!

  16. 16

    Kathleen Gardner Pietrovito — March 27, 2011 @ 3:07 am Reply

    So good! and such a great idea to make sauces rich and creamy tasting, but still healthy!

  17. 17

    Ellen Benz — March 27, 2011 @ 3:08 am Reply

    Cara – Looks like a great recipe! Moosewood also uses cottage cheese in a great creamy pesto sauce made with walnuts, basil, and spinach.I am now inspired to make my pumpkin, black bean, cilantro soup!

  18. 18

    Ellen Benz — March 27, 2011 @ 3:08 am Reply

    Cara – Looks like a great recipe! Moosewood also uses cottage cheese in a great creamy pesto sauce made with walnuts, basil, and spinach.I am now inspired to make my pumpkin, black bean, cilantro soup!

  19. 19

    imasugarjunkie — March 28, 2011 @ 8:54 pm Reply

    I just made this the other day and it was so good! I had to leave out the cottage cheese due to a milk allergy but soy milk and a bit of extra pumpkin and it was still so good!

  20. 20

    imasugarjunkie — March 28, 2011 @ 8:54 pm Reply

    I just made this the other day and it was so good! I had to leave out the cottage cheese due to a milk allergy but soy milk and a bit of extra pumpkin and it was still so good!

  21. 21

    Cara — March 28, 2011 @ 8:54 pm Reply

    Hi Sarah, thanks for stopping by! Good question. I think most of the recipes I have used cottage cheese in are original, so I'm not working with an amount of cream I am trying to substitute for. If I were, however, I think I would do half cottage cheese and half milk, blended together, in place of cream. So if a recipe called for 1 cup of cream I'd do try using 1/2 cup cottage cheese and 1/2 cup milk blended together. Hope this help!

  22. 22

    Cara — March 28, 2011 @ 8:54 pm Reply

    Hi Sarah, thanks for stopping by! Good question. I think most of the recipes I have used cottage cheese in are original, so I'm not working with an amount of cream I am trying to substitute for. If I were, however, I think I would do half cottage cheese and half milk, blended together, in place of cream. So if a recipe called for 1 cup of cream I'd do try using 1/2 cup cottage cheese and 1/2 cup milk blended together. Hope this help!

  23. 23

    Sarah — March 28, 2011 @ 8:54 pm Reply

    Looking forward to trying this one. I was also just wondering if you have a general rule about substituting cottage cheese for cream in your recipes — do you just add the same amount of pureed cottage cheese?

  24. 24

    Sarah — March 28, 2011 @ 8:54 pm Reply

    Looking forward to trying this one. I was also just wondering if you have a general rule about substituting cottage cheese for cream in your recipes — do you just add the same amount of pureed cottage cheese?

  25. 25

    Runner Leana — March 28, 2011 @ 8:54 pm Reply

    Yum, just made it this evening and it was so good! Love the cottage cheese idea!

  26. 26

    Nicole — March 28, 2011 @ 8:54 pm Reply

    I made this last night and it was excellent. My husband and I loved it.

  27. 27

    Nicole — March 28, 2011 @ 8:54 pm Reply

    I made this last night and it was excellent. My husband and I loved it.

  28. 28

    Megan — March 28, 2011 @ 8:54 pm Reply

    I have a recipe that uses cottage cheese and oatmeal as a base for pancakes. It's super, super good! PM me if you want it.

  29. 29

    Megan — March 28, 2011 @ 8:54 pm Reply

    I have a recipe that uses cottage cheese and oatmeal as a base for pancakes. It's super, super good! PM me if you want it.

  30. 30

    Cate — March 28, 2011 @ 8:54 pm Reply

    This looks so perfect for fall, and I love that it's healthy!

  31. 31

    maybelle's mom — March 28, 2011 @ 8:54 pm Reply

    cottage cheese, I would have never guessed.

  32. 32

    The DeL Sisters — March 28, 2011 @ 8:54 pm Reply

    Yummy I love pumpkin!

  33. 33

    The DeL Sisters — March 28, 2011 @ 8:54 pm Reply

    Yummy I love pumpkin!

  34. 34

    Elly — March 28, 2011 @ 8:54 pm Reply

    I've only used the cottage cheese thing for mac and cheese, but I'll have to try it out in place of cream. It looks so tasty!

  35. 35

    Ellen Benz — March 29, 2011 @ 2:07 am Reply

    Cara – Looks like a great recipe! Moosewood also uses cottage cheese in a great creamy pesto sauce made with walnuts, basil, and spinach.I am now inspired to make my pumpkin, black bean, cilantro soup!

  36. 36

    Kathleen Gardner Pietrovito — March 29, 2011 @ 2:07 am Reply

    So good! and such a great idea to make sauces rich and creamy tasting, but still healthy!

  37. 37

    FactBased WeightLoss — March 29, 2011 @ 2:07 am Reply

    Must. Try. This. I looooove anything with pumpkin in it and this sounds amazing. Thanks!

  38. 38

    Cara — March 29, 2011 @ 2:07 am Reply

    Hi Sarah, thanks for stopping by! Good question. I think most of the recipes I have used cottage cheese in are original, so I'm not working with an amount of cream I am trying to substitute for. If I were, however, I think I would do half cottage cheese and half milk, blended together, in place of cream. So if a recipe called for 1 cup of cream I'd do try using 1/2 cup cottage cheese and 1/2 cup milk blended together. Hope this help!

  39. 39

    maybelle's mom — March 29, 2011 @ 2:07 am Reply

    cottage cheese, I would have never guessed.

  40. 40

    Dori — March 29, 2011 @ 2:07 am Reply

    fat-free ricotta would prob do a similar job. i'm def going to try the cottage cheese thing though. good tip!

  41. 41

    Dori — April 5, 2011 @ 1:23 am Reply

    fat-free ricotta would prob do a similar job. i'm def going to try the cottage cheese thing though. good tip!

  42. 42

    Kathleen Gardner Pietrovito — April 5, 2011 @ 1:23 am Reply

    So good! and such a great idea to make sauces rich and creamy tasting, but still healthy!

  43. 43

    Cate — April 5, 2011 @ 1:23 am Reply

    This looks so perfect for fall, and I love that it's healthy!

  44. Pingback: Celebration of Fall from the St Johns River Farmers Market – Stuffed Acorn Squash with Roasted Garlic, Sage, Pumpkin Sauce and Fresh Squash Blossoms » Florida Coastal Cooking

  45. 44

    Onnie — October 4, 2013 @ 7:40 pm Reply

    Just made this for the first time this season, and I am so excited for a fall/winter full of this dish! One of my favorites for sure!!!

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