Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pumpkin Baked Ziti with Carmelized Onions and Sage Crumb Topping

This is very good and filling.  I'm not huge on onions, and the recipe originally called for 2.  I used one, and it was still a bit much.  I'll try 1/2 next time.  But if you are a big onion lover, go for it.  I also found that 2 cups of bread crumbs was way too much.  I would only use 1 or 1.5 next time.  I tasted the cashew ricotta after it was done and was disappointed in the flavor, but after I put it all together, it worked.  If you don't want to go vegan, you could probably buy ricotta.  But where's the fun in that?

3/4 lbs uncooked ziti or penne pasta
1 onion, sliced very thinly
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
white pepper and cayenne
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
1/4 cup vegetable broth

Sage Bread Crumbs:
2 cups bread crumbs, preferably fresh and homemade
1/3 cup walnut pieced chopped in a food processor until resembling coarse crumbs
1/4 cup Earth Balance (you can substitute olive oil, canola oil or a blend of these)
2 tsp dried, rubbed sage
1 tsp dried oregano leaves
1/2 tsp ground paprika
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cashew Ricotta:
1/2 cup raw cashew pieces (approx 4 oz)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves fresh or roasted garlic
1 lb firm tofu, drained and crumbled
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
1 1/2 tsp salt

To make the Cashew Ricotta: In a food processor, blend together the cashews, lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic until a thick creamy paste forms. Add the crumbled tofu to the food processor, working in two or more batches in necessary, until the moisture is thick and well blended. Blend in the basil and salt.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9 x 11-inch lasagne type baking pan with olive oil, or use two smaller pans.

Prepare the ziti according to the package directions, about 10 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water and drain again. Set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, make the caramelized onion: preheat a large heavy-bottomed pan, preferably cast iron, over medium heat. Saute the onions in oil until some onion bits are very brown and caramelized, 12 to 15 minutes. Set aside.

Place the Cashew Ricotta in a large bowl and fold in the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, nutmeg, white pepper, cayenne, and vegetable broth and mix. Add the cooked ziti and caramelized onions, stirring to coat the pasta. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan and press lightly with a rubber spatula to level it.

Make the Sage Bread Crumbs:
Melt the Earth Balance in large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Stir in the bread crumbs, walnuts, dried herbs and paprika, and season with salt and pepper. Stir constantly until the mixture is lightly coated, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and sprinkle evenly over the ziti.

Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, until the top of the ziti is golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.  Number of Servings: 12


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