Baked ziti is a classic and this version highlights fall flavors by using pumpkin puree as the base of the sauce instead of tomato sauce. Seasonings such as fresh sage, ground nutmeg and cinnamon really bring out the season and keep you coming back for seconds. If you want to make a vegetarian version of this recipe, skip the sausage and add in a hearty vegetable like cauliflower.
Pumpkin Baked Ziti
1 (1 lb.) box ziti pasta
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 lb. sweet italian sausage
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
4 to 5 fresh sage leaves, finely minced
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3/4 cup chicken stock, preferably organic
1 (14.5 oz.) can pumpkin puree
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/3 grated pecorino romano cheese plus extra for garnish
Step 1: Fill a large pot with water and place on the stove on high heat. Once boiling, generously salt the water and cook pasta according to package directions.
Step 2: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Step 3: In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the sausage and cook until golden brown and crisp. Remove from pan and allow to drain on a paper towel.
Step 4: Add the onions and garlic to the same pan. Allow to cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until onions appear translucent. Season the mixture with sage, nutmeg, cinnamon and red pepper flakes. Add the chicken stock and let reduce. Once about half of the liquid has evaporated, add the pumpkin puree and stir until all the ingredients are well incorporated. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the sausage back in and stir.
Step 5: Place the pasta in a large casserole dish. Add the sauce on top and stir until the sauce is evenly distributed. Top the pasta with cheese and bake the ziti until golden brown and bubbly, about 20 to 30 minutes.