Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pumpkin Baked Ziti

For those of you who don't know me personally, I'm somewhat holiday-obsessed. Every Halloween, I carve pumpkins. Every Easter, I dye Easter eggs. And every time Christmas rolls around, you bet I'm sitting on the floor of my apartment cutting out paper snowflakes instead of studying for finals. Many of my friends say they hate holidays, and that after childhood the excitement wears away and the fun is gone. Maybe I'm just 9-years old at heart, but I think I will always perform these rituals because I grew up with them, they connect me to home, and make me feel closer to the people around me. Call me lame, but while the holiday naysayers are complaining, I'm skipping around having the time of my life!

I concocted this dish about two weeks in advance before my Halloween party, and it came out just as I'd hoped. I've never been a big marinara fan, so I created my own pasta sauce using organic pumpkin, vegetable broth, onion, cream, brown sugar, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper. I made 2 pounds of pasta to serve a big group of people, but scaled down the recipe for 1 pound which can easily feed a family, small group of friends, or a single person who loves leftovers! I guess cannibalistic pumpkins can eat it, too?

Pumpkin Baked Ziti
Serves: 4-6 people  Prep: 40 minutes  Total: 1 hour, 10 minutes

1 lb whole wheat rotini pasta
1 yellow onion
1/2 tbs brown sugar
1/2 tbs nutmeg
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 15-ounce can organic pumpkin
1 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 tbs fresh thyme
10-ounces gruyere cheese (shredded)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs

Cook rotini in a large pot as directed until al dente. Strain and set aside.
Dice onion and saute in olive oil on medium heat until tender, about 3 minutes. Add brown sugar, nutmeg and cayenne pepper and cook for another 2 minutes. Stir in pumpkin and vegetable broth, bring sauce to a boil and simmer uncovered on low heat for 15 minutes. Pour in heavy cream and stir well. Add thyme and simmer for another 20 minutes. When the sauce is done, remove from heat and let sit.
Begin assembling the zita by layering a greased baking dish with half of the rotini pasta, half of the sauce, and half of gruyere. Again, layer half the pasta, sauce and gruyere. Top with parmesan and bread crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until the cheese is fully melted and the top is slightly browned.


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