Pumpkin Baked Ziti with Caramelized Onions and Sage Crumb Topping
1 pound uncooked ziti or penne
2 onions, sliced very thinly
3 T olive oil
1 recipe cashew ricotta (follows)
1T brown sugar
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
White pepper and cayenne
2 c or 1 15-oz can pumpkin puree (not pie mix)
1/4 c. vegetable broth
Cashew ricotta (makes 2 cups):
1/2 c. cashew pieces (approx. 4 oz.)
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
2 T olive oil
2 cloves fresh or roasted garlic
1 lb. firm tofu, drained and crumbled
1-1/2 t. dried basil
1-1/2 t. salt
Sage bread crumbs:
2-1/2 c. bread crumbs, preferably freshly made
1/4 c. Earth Balance or olive oil
2 t. dried, rubbed sage
1/2 t. ground paprika
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease a 9×11 or 9×13-inch lasagna pan with olive oil. Prepare ziti according to package directions. Drain, rinse, drain again and set aside.
While ziti is cooking, make the caramelized onions: preheat a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Saute onions in oil until some onion bits are very brown and caramelized, about 12 to 15 minutes. Set aside.
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 batches if necessary, until the mixture is thick and well blended. Blend in the basil and salt.
Place cashew ricotta in large bowl and fold in pumpkin puree, brown sugar, nutmeg, white pepper, cayenne, and vegetable broth. Add the cooked ziti and the caramelized onions. Pour mixture into the prepared pan and level with a spatula, pressing slightly.
Make the bread crumb topping: Melt margarine or heat oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Stir in the bread crumbs, dried herbs, and paprika and season with salt and pepper. Stir constantly until the mixture is lightly coated, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and spread over pasta mixture.
Bake 28 to 30 minutes, until the top of the ziti is golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving