Pasta Al Forno with Pumpkin and Pancetta

By • November 9, 2010 39 Comments

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Author Notes: A few weeks ago, my husband and I enjoyed a meal at Al Forno in Providence, Rhode Island. I couldn't resist ordering a baked pasta, especially since they were featuring a seasonal version of their original 5-cheese wonder that also incorporated pumpkin and pancetta. Rich, lightly sweet but also tangy from the blend of different cheeses, the pasta was tinted a rich orange throughout -- although there were little chunks of pumpkin among the baked shells, I guessed that there had been some pumpkin pureed into the cream sauce as well. When I got home, I consulted the original recipe for the 5-cheese version, from Cucina Simpatica, and did my best to recreate what I'd had at the restaurant, adding roast pumpkin, pancetta and a little thyme. The most important part of the technique? You boil the pasta for barely 5 minutes, allowing the final blast in a flaming hot oven to cook it through to al dente and tinge the edges of the shells a lovely rich brown.Merrill Stubbs

Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 3-4 pound cheese pumpkin or butternut squash
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 pound pancetta, diced
  • 1 pound conchiglie rigate (shells)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 pound shredded fresh mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1/2 cup fontina, coarsely grated
  • 1/4 cup crumbled gorgonzola
  • 2 tablespoons ricotta
  • 2 teaspoons chopped thyme leaves
  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Halve the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds. Cut the pumpkin into 8 equal wedges and arrange on two baking sheets lined with foil. Sprinkle the wedges with salt and pepper and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Bake for about an hour, until the pumpkin is caramelized and tender when pierced with a sharp knife. Remove from the oven and let cool until you can handle the pumpkin without burning yourself.
  2. In the meantime, crisp the pancetta in a medium saucepan over medium heat, about 10 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels, discarding the fat.
  3. Turn the oven up to 500 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta for exactly 5 minutes, drain and run cool water over it for about 10 seconds. Set aside in the colander.
  4. Scoop enough of the cooked pumpkin from the rind to make 2 cups. Combine this with the cream in a blender and puree just until smooth (be careful not to overblend, or you’ll whip the cream). Scoop out some more of the pumpkin (you probably won’t need the whole thing) and chop roughly to make about a cup and a half.
  5. Combine the pumpkin and cream puree with the cheeses, salt, thyme and pancetta in a large bowl and stir gently to combine. Add the pasta and the chopped pumpkin and fold together just until combined.
  6. Spread the pasta evenly in a casserole or baking dish. Bake uncovered for 7 to 10 minutes, until the top is browned and the bottom layer of pasta is just tender.

More Great Recipes: Pasta|Entrees|Ricotta|Olive Oil

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Comments (39) Questions (5)


10 months ago YCandy

How far in advance can you roast the squash? 3-4 days ok?


10 months ago mizerychik

This is truly outstanding. I used pumpkin for the pureed part and butternut squash for the chunks and it was delicious.


10 months ago Mary Tee Malmberg

I cooked this tonight, and it was AMAZING! I subbed cottage cheese for ricotta, diced, thick-cut prosciutto for pancetta, and sage for thyme. It was the perfect autumn dinner paired with an arugula salad. Thanks for sharing!


11 months ago Sierra

I have an acorn squash--can I use it in this?


11 months ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

You could, but the flavor may be a little less rich and intense because an acorn squash contains more water than butternut.


over 1 year ago vwest

Well, waddyaknow! A cheese pumpkin. Now I'm really intrigued. This will be on my autumn to-do list. Thanks so much for the info.


over 1 year ago vwest

I'm only beginning to cook, so I'm already confused by the first ingredient. Perhaps it's a typo?
"1 3-4 pound cheese pumpkin or butternut squash" Does it mean one 3-to-4 pound pumpkin and "cheese" isn't supposed to be there? Is it supposed to be "canned" pumpkin? Thanks!


over 1 year ago Janet

Yes, it means "one 3-to-4 pound pumpkin or squash", but "cheese" is not a typo, it's like "butternut": you can use either a "Cheese Pumpkin" or a "Butternut Squash", and whichever one you use should be 3-to-4 pounds. I used Butternut Squash because I could not find a Cheese Pumpkin - you are not alone if you have never heard of a Cheese Pumpkin. :)


over 1 year ago Orionmar

The second time I made this, it was downright amazing. Cheesy, moist and pumpkiny (if that's a word), in every wonderful way. The first time I made it was only so-so. The difference was in the amount of pumpkin flesh I used. If in doubt, add a bit more pumpkin. And yes, it can be refrigerated in advance...but I had to learn from my mistakes. If doing so, bring fully to room temp, then bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes, then bake at 500 degrees according to directions.


almost 2 years ago Janet

Can this be assembled the day before, refrigerated overnight and baked for the first time the next day?


almost 2 years ago Summer of Eggplant

I have done so with success.


almost 2 years ago Janet



almost 2 years ago OilandButter

Could you substitute canned pumpkin for the puréed portion of the sauce and use butternut squash chunks for the rest? I have a hard time finding cooking pumpkins.


almost 2 years ago SunBunny

Oh man! I wish there was a vegan version of this but it's just not possible. There's some things you can't fake.


almost 2 years ago Jenn2323

I plan to make this dish next week for dinner. I was planning on serving the shaved brussels sprout salad and I'm kind of stuck on a protein. Seared scallops, pork tenderloin, roasted chicken?


almost 2 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

I think it would go nicely with pork - to be honest, I usually serve this pasta as the main course because it's so hearty.


almost 3 years ago racheljames

I'm a vegetarian and used about a 1/2 cup of crumbled vegan Chorizo instead of Pancetta, and substituted Feta for Gorgonzola, which I don't really like. Turned out great! And was even better day two and three for lunch.


over 3 years ago vinylhaven

used to live in providence, i know how good al forno's is. this recipe did not disappoint. yum. after it was ready my party wasn't ready to eat, put foil on and kept in warm oven. i kept coming and sneeking a few bites before dinner was served, worth it get a little more. thanks


over 3 years ago Christine Hardy Leaf

I have your holiday ap. For Boxing Day Dinner I had this with Porchetta, made with a boned leg of pork,and my own blood orange and redonion salad. Huge hit.
A small group of us are doing a dinner at a homeless shelter next Tuesday. This will be on the menu, the Mozzarella not fresh, Pecorino Romano replaced by cheddar, gorgonzola by the Pecorino Romano. !/2 & 1/2for the cream. I'm sure these guys will think it is the best Mac n Cheese ever.
Hi Cal. Hi protein and veg. hidden.


over 3 years ago KayM

I made this last night with half and half -- turned out great.


almost 4 years ago weshook

I don't usually make baked pasta (can't wait that long to eat it), I think that I might try this one!


almost 4 years ago lpalumbo

I just made this and it was a great fall dish! I had some collard greens that needed to get used up so I sliced them and added to the pasta at the end of the cooking time to quickly blanch them before baking with everything else.


almost 4 years ago Summer of Eggplant

I can't believe I have not commented on this dish. We have made it several times since your original post and love it. My husband says it is the best macaroni and cheese ever. I made this earlier this week and enjoyed the leftovers for several lunches. Today I still had some of the cheese chunks and roasted butternut squash leftover and I made a grilled cheese out of them. Awesome! I am still feeling guilty for eating the whole sandwich.


almost 4 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

So glad you've been enjoying it! I'm thinking it's about that time again...


about 4 years ago arielleclementine

Butternut squash showed up at the farmers market this week, and I couldn't get your recipe out of my head. So we threw caution to the wind and savored this mac and cheese on a 104 degree day in late July. We all agreed it was the best we'd ever tasted. Thanks for the recipe!


over 4 years ago cindymd

I saw this recipe and knew that I had to try it, but couldn't stand the thought of 2 c of heavy cream in our main dish. So, I substituted low-fat cottage cheese and it worked great! I just pureed it with the squash. My kids loved this cheese and they both hate any kind of squash. I will be making this again for sure...


almost 4 years ago RaquelG

Love this lightening idea!