Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pumpkin Baked Ziti with Caramelized Onions & Sage Crumb Topping

I loved Thanksgiving this year, despite having dreaded the turkey-centric day. My family hid the turkey on a side table around the corner from the table, so I was shielded from the sad view of a dead turkey. They made me vegan versions of mashed potatoes, stuffing, and veggies, so it was great having the comfort food I grew up with. But the highlight was the dish I brought: Pumpkin Baked Ziti with Caramelized Onions and Sage Crumb Topping from Veganomicon. I absolutely loved it and plan to make it for my in-laws for Christmas. I also made Roasted Brussels Sprouts, which everyone loves.

The base of this recipe is the Cashew Ricotta. I've made this ricotta before and love it. It's not only a great ricotta substitute, but it's also great dolloped onto veggie pizza, or even just slathered on crackers. I added pumpkin puree, brown sugar, and seasonings for the creamy, part-cheesy, part-pumpkiny filling.
When I asked on Twitter whether anyone had made this recipe, one person said she thought it was just okay. She said she thought it was missing something, but didn't know what. The recipe calls for two onions to be caramelized. I figured any dish will be better with more caramelized onions, so I added a third onion. Then I mixed the pumpkin filling, onions, and ziti together.

Last I made the Sage Crumb Topping from fresh baguette bread. Mmm. It looked so delicious out of the oven, I couldn't wait to eat it.

The final dish was creamy, rich, sweet, and cheesy, with the sage, pumpkin, and onion flavors perfectly complementing each other.

The only bad thing is this ziti is not a light dish. It's very rich and heavy, so save this dish for special occasions or when you have a lot of people to help eat it (or if you don't really care if a dish is light!). I haven't posted many recipes from Veganomicon, but I'll post this one because not only is it phenomenal, but it's a great advertisement for what a great cookbook Veganomicon is. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Baked Ziti with Caramelized Onions and Sage Crumb Topping from Veganomicon
Serves 6-8
  • 3/4 pound uncooked ziti or penne pasta
  • 3 onions, sliced very thinly (original recipe calls for 2)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 recipe Cashew Ricotta (see below)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • white pepper and cayenne (the recipe didn't say how much; I used a dash of each)
  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth

Sage Bread Crumbs
  • 2 1/2 cups bread crumbs, preferably fresh and homemade (made from about half a baguette or four dinner rolls)
  • 1/3 cup walnut pieces, chopped in a food processor until resembling course crumbs
  • 1/4 cup nonhydrogenated vegan margarine
  • 2 teaspoons dried, rubbed sage
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground paprika
  • salt and pepper

Cashew Ricotta
  • 1/2 cup raw cashew pieces, soaked in water for at least an hour
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 pound firm tofu, drained and crumbled
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons 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 in batches and process until the mixture is thick and well blended. Blend in the basil and salt. Taste before adding all the salt; I find that it needs a little less than the recipe calls for.
  1. Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease a 9X11 baking pan. 
  2. Cook the ziti according to the package directions. Drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside.
  3. Preheat a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Saute the onions in oil until onion is very brown and caramelized, 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside.
  4. Place Cashew Ricotta in a large bowl and fold in the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, nutmeg, white paper, cayenne, veg 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.
  5. For the bread crumbs, melt the margarine in a 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.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes, until the top of the ziti is golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.


  1. Your ziti looks very nice... I remember making it a long time ago, and I thought it was kinda bland... maybe I should give it a shot again.

  2. Looks great! I've seen other variations on this sort of food. I made a pumpkin lasagna one year. Interesting that the cashew ricotta has tofu also, and good call on the extra onion :)

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  4. It looks great. I'll have to try this out very soon.