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Cheesy Pumpkin Kale Pasta Bake + Autumn Kale Salad with Lemon Ginger Tahini Dressing

Updated: May 24, 2021

I know autumn is PSL season, but I love a good savory pumpkin dish. You just can’t go wrong with pumpkin, cheese, and savory spices – add some pasta and a few extra veggies into the mix and you’ve got my winner winner Cheesy Pumpkin Kale Pasta Bake dinner!

This PASTA-tively KALE-icious vegetarian pasta dish is so creamy and flavorful, you’ll actually look forward to meatless Monday. With nourishing ingredients like pumpkin puree, milk, olive oil, mushrooms, and kale, you’ll be bettered by every bite.

Kale: Unbe-LEAF-ably Nutritious

Pumpkin gets a lot of attention this time of year, but I want to discuss another seasonal ingredient from today’s featured dish – kale! This leafy green vegetable may be available all year round, but it is at its peak during the fall. See here for more information about vegetables and fruits that are in season this time of year.

Like pumpkin, sweet potato, and all the other orange veggies, kale contains vitamins A and C. Both of these vitamins as well as have antioxidant properties that provide immune support and may help to prevent against some cancers. Other beneficial nutrients found in this leafy green veggie include vitamin K, vitamin B6, potassium, calcium, copper, manganese, iron, and dietary fiber.


Other recipes that incorporate kale: Bacon Butternut Soup with Chickpeas and Kale


Massage Your Greens

Kale is a cruciferous vegetable, like broccoli, cabbage, and brussel sprouts, that can be served in a variety of ways – raw, added to soups and sauces, braised, dehydrated (think kale chips), or frozen and added to smoothies for a nutrient boost. Although raw kale is perfectly fine to eat as is, for some individuals raw kale may be difficult to digest. Personally, I have issues digesting any raw cruciferous vegetable, but with kale there is a solution! An easy way to prevent stomach upset is to massage the kale with a touch of olive oil. It might seem silly, but it makes the world of a difference.


Since the kale used in my Cheesy Pumpkin Kale Pasta Bake is cooked, there’s no need to massage it beforehand; but if making a side salad, like my Autumn Kale Salad with Lemon Ginger Tahini Dressing (see recipe below), I highly suggest this method.


Autumn Kale Salad with Lemon Ginger Tahini Dressing

To make this seasonal kale salad, simply massage 5-6 cups raw chopped kale in a drizzle of olive oil, toss in a 1/4 cup of both dried cranberries and toasted pumpkin seeds, then drizzle with Ginger Tahini Dressing as desired and serve.


Ginger Tahini Dressing: • 1/4 cup tahini • 1 tbsp. honey • Juice of 1 lemon • 3/4 tsp. fresh ginger, grated • Salt and pepper to taste


Enough about kale already. Let’s get to the recipe! I may be biased, but this Cheesy Pumpkin Kale Pasta Bake is so good, it’s pre-PASTA-rous.


What’s in This Recipe?

  • Pasta – contains energizing carbohydrates; wheat, brown rice, chickpea, and lentil pasta varieties are richer in fiber than traditional pasta

  • Milk – contains protein, calcium, and vitamin D for strong bones and muscle recovery

  • Pasta water – pasta water contains starch and yields a smoother, thicker sauce than tap water when it comes to making sauces

  • Olive oil – rich in unsaturated fatty acids, linked with lower LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglyceride levels and higher HDL cholesterol levels

  • Shallot – vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate, potassium, and manganese, contains quercetin and organosulfur compounds which may be beneficial for reducing the risk of certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes

  • Mushrooms – contains selenium, potassium, B vitamins, and vitamin D

  • Italian cheese – contains calcium and protein; provides flavor

  • Ricotta cheese – contains calcium and protein; provides flavor

  • Cream cheese – contains calcium and protein; provides flavor

  • 100% pumpkin puree – contains vitamin A for eye, skin, immune health as well as potassium and vitamin C

  • Herbs and spices – garlic herb blend, Italian herb blend, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne, and red pepper flakes

  • Kale – contains fiber, vitamins A, K, and B6, potassium, calcium, copper, and manganese

  • Mozzarella – calcium, vitamin D, and protein

  • Parmesan – contains calcium, lower in lactose than soft cheeses, provides flavor

*Notes: To make this dish gluten free, use certified gluten free pasta. I like to use chickpea pasta from Banza or lentil pasta from Barilla for added protein and fiber.

Cheesy Pumpkin Kale Pasta Bake

Prep time: 15 minutes

Bake time: 30 minutes

Total time: 45 hour

Servings: 4


Filling ingredients:

  • 8 oz uncooked pasta*

  • 1/2 cup pasta water

  • 2 tsp. olive oil

  • 1 shallot, minced

  • 4 baby bella mushrooms, sliced

  • 1/2 cup milk

  • 1 cup shredded Italian cheese, divided

  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese

  • 1/4 cup cream cheese

  • 1 cup pumpkin puree

  • 1/2 tsp. garlic herb blend

  • 1/2 tsp. Italian herb blend

  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

  • 1/4 tsp. pepper

  • Dash of cayenne pepper (optional)

  • Dash of red pepper flakes (optional)

  • 1 cup frozen chopped kale

  • 1/4 cup fresh mozzarella

  • Freshly grated parmesan to taste


Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350oF. Spray a large casserole dish with non-stick spray.

  2. Prepare the pasta al dente according to directions on the package. Once cooked, strain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Toss the pasta into the greased casserole dish.

  3. While the pasta cooks, preheat the olive oil in a sauté pan at medium-high heat. Next, add the shallot. Sauté until fragrant (1-2 minutes), then add the mushrooms. Sauté for 1-2 more minutes.

  4. Meanwhile, combine the milk, 1/2 cup shredded Italian cheese, ricotta, cream cheese, pumpkin puree, and spices in a medium mixing bowl.

  5. Add the cheesy pumpkin mixture and pasta water to the sautéed shallots and mushrooms. Cook stirring frequently until just boiling. Remove sauce from the heat and stir in the kale.

  6. Add the sauce to the casserole dish, and mix until the pasta is well coated. Top with pieces of fresh mozzarella and Italian blend cheese.

  7. Bake for 30 minutes until bubbling. Garnish with parmesan as desired and serve.

 

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. When you make this Cheesy Pumpkin Kale Pasta Bake or any other Hope For Balance recipe, tag me at @hope.for.balance and use the hashtag #hopeforbalance for a chance to be featured in my Facebook or IG stories. I LOVE seeing your creations!

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