For some reason, pumpkins have become the hallmark of the start of the Fall season. You may have noticed this trend from the abundance of pumpkins and pumpkin flavored products lining store and supermarket shelves. For example, just walk into Trader Joe’s and you’ll be surrounded by pumpkin shaped pasta shells, pumpkin pasta sauces, pumpkin soup, pumpkin cookies and pumpkin spices. I think it probably has something to do with Halloween and Carved Jack-O’-Lanterns in October…
This year, if you or your family are planning on making pumpkin faces to decorate your front porch, don’t throw out all that pumpkin flesh goodness. Here is an easy vegan, egg-free, dairy-free and nut-free dish that is simple to put together using sugar pumpkins, pie pumpkins or even Kabocha squashes (known as Japanese pumpkins). Pair with whole grain noodles, gluten-free pasta, zucchini noodles, spaghetti squash noodles or even bread (or gluten-free alternative) for the perfect satisfying main course meal.
This Vegan Red Lentil Pumpkin Pasta has a special ‘meaty’ texture that comes from the combination of cooked red lentils and pumpkin cubes. This recipe works especially well if you have cooked lentils and steamed or roasted pumpkin wedges already in the refrigerator. But if not, you can still cook this dish up easily using a bit more cooking time. If you are planning to use the flesh of a carved pumpkin, it is ideally best to steam cook or roast the flesh of one that has been cut no longer than a few hours ago. However, if you can’t get to it that night, then wash and pat dry the outside of the pumpkin well, before storing it in the refrigerator till the next day when you plan to do the cooking. On the day of cooking, slice the pumpkin into wedges and trim a thin layer off the portions that were exposed to air the night before. Then either roast or steam cook the pumpkin wedges or cut a wedge up into raw cubes to use directly in the recipe below. This Vegan Red Lentil Pumpkin Pasta is a freezable dish that makes a great meal prep recipe to enjoy throughout the fall and winter season!
A satisfying vegan, egg-free, dairy-free, soy free, nut-free and gluten free (if gluten-free pasta is used) dish that is simple to put together using carving pumpkins, pie pumpkins or even Kabocha squashes (known as Japanese pumpkins) which will leave your family asking for more!
- 1 ½ cups cooked red lentils [268 g]
- 2 large cloves garlic (minced)
- 1/3 cup diced onion [36 g]
- ½ tablespoon canola oil (or other vegetable oil)
- ½ cup diced tomatoes [85 g]
- 1 cup grated zucchini shreds [120 g]
- 1 cup raw or pre-cooked pumpkin cubes (or kabocha squash cubes) [160 g]
- 1 ½ cups tomato-based pasta sauce [390 g] (about ½ of a 24 ounce jar)
- 1 cup vegetable broth, divided [240 mL] (or use leftover lentil cooking liquid, or just water)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt (add more if desired)
- 1 ½ tablespoons fresh chopped oregano leaves (or ½ teaspoon dried oregano)
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 box whole wheat fusilli pasta or gluten-free alternative [340 g] (not included in nutritional analysis)
Cook the red lentils if you don’t have any already cooked (Read here for guidance on how to cook red lentils). If you are cooking red lentils from scratch, this will take about 10-15 minutes, but while it is cooking you can prep and cook the other ingredients for the pasta sauce. When the red lentils are cooked, drain the cooked red lentils and set them aside in a bowl to use when called for in the recipe. Reserve the red lentil cooking liquid for later use in the recipe.
If you are using raw pumpkin or kabocha squash flesh in this recipe, remove the rind and cut up one cup’s worth of cubes about 1 inch in diameter (note: the smaller the cubes are, the faster they will cook in the pasta sauce). These cut raw cubes should be added early in the cooking process to allow adequate time for them to be cooked until soft. If you would like to use steam cooked pumpkin or kabocha squash, read here.
Wash and peel the zucchini using a fruit peel grater. Then use a large cheese hole grater to grate the zucchini into shreds.
Mince the garlic and dice the onions and tomato.
Heat the half tablespoon of oil in a medium pot on a medium stove heat setting. Once heated, add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onion pieces are soft and translucent. Then add the diced tomatoes and sauté the mixture for 2-3 minutes.
Next, add in the measured amount of cooked red lentils, grated zucchini, pasta sauce and ½ cup of the vegetable broth (water or lentil cooking liquid can be used instead). Add in the raw pumpkin or kabocha squash cubes as well into this mix (but not if you already have cooked pumpkin cubes on hand – see step 10).
Add in the salt, ground black pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. Stir until all is combined well.
Let this sauce cook on the stove on a low-medium setting for at least 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce should be continuously simmering on a gentle boil.
Meanwhile, cook whole wheat fusilli pasta (or gluten-free alternative) in a separate pot, following the package directions.
After the 10 minutes, add in the remaining 1/2 cup of vegetable broth (or water) and the cooked kabocha squash or cooked pumpkin cubes into the sauce mix (if using steamed or pre-cooked pumpkin cubes). Stir well and let cook for another 3-4 minutes keeping the sauce gently simmering. (If you used raw pumpkin cubes in this recipe, just add the remaining amount of broth, then continue simmering the sauce until the pumpkin cubes are well cooked through.)
Before serving, add and stir in the fresh oregano leaves (or dried oregano) to the sauce mixture.
Serve with pasta or bread and garnish with some vegan cheese shreds if desired on top of the sauce (optional).
During the cooking process, feel free to add in some grated carrots and/or chopped white button mushrooms or Cremini mushrooms if you like, and adjust the amount of pepper and salt to your liking.
If you would like to use pre-roasted or already steamed pumpkin or kabocha squash cubes, these can be added into the pot towards the end of the cooking process (see Step 10 in the recipe instructions above).
For an oil-free recipe, sauté the diced onion and garlic pieces in 1/4 cup [60 mL] of vegetable broth over a medium heat until the diced onion pieces are soft and translucent, and most of the vegetable broth has been cooked away.