Friday, October 10, 2014

Pumpkin Sage Baked Ziti

Years ago I swore off of whole-wheat pasta.  I had tried it again and again (even worked in an Italian restaurant and tried it everyday for a few weeks) but it just tasted like spoiled pasta.  I do loves me pasta and really gave it the old college try, but it simply didn't work for me.

And then, just last week, I ran across this recipe.  Since I had some leftover sage from that wonderful sage popcorn I posted a few days ago, I decided I'd give this healthier pasta version one more try.  To me, whole wheat pasta has to have a hearty sauce to go with it and this creamy pumpkin-based sauce is just the ticket.  It is very filling and a meal in itself, although a green salad really balances it out.


3 Tbsp + 2 tsp EVOO, divided
2 large shallots, diced
1/4 cup AP flour
2 1/2 cups milk (1%, 2% or whole)
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup thinly sliced sage leaves, divided
pinch of nutmeg
S&P to taste
8 oz whole wheat penne, cooked al dente
3/4 cup shredded sharp white cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350F and spray a square baking dish with an oil mister or cooking spray.

Heat 3 Tbsp of oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the shallots and cook, stirring often, until just beginning to brown, about 7 minutes.  Sprinkle the flour into the skillet and give it a good stir.  Cook, continuing to stir often, until golden brown, about 3 minutes.  Grab a whisk and slowly pour the milk into the skillet, whisking it into the flour mixture.  Once the milk is incorporated and the sauce is smooth, add the pumpkin to the skillet and whisk that in.  Let the sauce cook on medium heat until it's thickened, about 5 minutes, continuing to whisk often.

Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup of the sage leaves and a pinch of nutmeg.  Season to taste with S&P, then fold in the penne.  Transfer to the prepared baking dish and top with the shredded cheese.  Cover the baking dish with foil and place in the oven.  Bake for 10 minutes covered, then uncover and cook for 10 minutes more.  If you want a browned top, broil for a few minutes or until cheese is golden brown.

While the casserole is baking, make the crispy sage topping.  Heat the remaining 2 tsp of olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add the remaining sage to the skillet and cook, stirring often, until crispy, about 3 minutes.  Keep a close eye on the sage because it will go from crispy to burnt very quickly.  When the sage is done, transfer to a paper towel to soak up some of the excess oil.  Sprinkle the crispy sage onto the baked ziti before serving.

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