Klutzing Around With: Baked Ziti With Pumpkin & Sausage

Last Christmas I was gifted with an item that made my fall-loving, foodie heart soar. Probably my favorite gift of the season. What might this present be, you ask?

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A PUMPKIN COOKBOOK!

That’s right, my friends. Fall is still here, despite Christmas trying to completely overtake Thanksgiving, so once again it’s time to klutz around with a seasonal, pumpkin-y recipe—this time of the savory sort.

The Recipe

While I was thrilled to receive this cookbook (THANKS, MOM AND DAD), I had not gotten around to testing any of its recipes until now. I wanted to step a bit outside of the box with a non-dessert pumpkin experiment, hence today’s foray with Baked Ziti With Pumpkin & Sausage from the Pumpkin! Cookbook. With that said, let us begin!

Making the Ziti

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This recipe was not terribly inconvenient to make, ingredient-wise. To make the ziti, I used:

  • 16 oz. (1 box) San Giorgio ziti
  • 15 oz. (1 can) LIBBY’S 100% Pure Pumpkin
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 12 oz. (1 can) evaporated fat-free milk
  • 5 links Italian-seasoned chicken sausage, cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 6 oz. (4 cups) washed spinach
  • 4 oz. (1 cup) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1.5 oz. (1/2 cup) shredded Parmesan cheese

For equipment, I used:

  • An oven
  • A 4-quart baking dish
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • A large cooking pot and lid
  • Medium skillet
  • A colander
  • Stove top
  • A wooden spoon
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Foil
  • A plate
  • A sharp knife
  • A small bowl

To start, I preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and spray the 4-quart baking dish with the nonstick cooking spray. Putting that aside, I prepare the ziti according to the box’s instructions, bringing the water to a rapid boil.

Unfortunately my kitchen burners are a bit unpredictable and it takes quite a while to get the pasta ready. While waiting for it to cook, I cut the chicken sausage and cook it in the skillet over medium heat, after which I remove the meat from the pan and put it aside on a plate.

Now that the skillet is freed up, it’s time to make the sauce. I combine the pumpkin, flour, garlic powder, salt, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper in the pan over medium heat. After I mix everything together with the wooden spoon, I slowly add the evaporated milk, stirring until everything is smooth. I then let it cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens, which takes between 2-3 minutes.

By this point, the pasta is finally done. I hold back 1/2 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta in the colander, then put the ziti back into the pot. I pour the sauce over the pasta, add the sausage and reserved pasta water, and stir everything together.

Next, I spread half of the pasta mixture into the prepped baking dish and top with the washed spinach. I pour the remaining pasta mix over the greens, then lightly spray the foil with nonstick spray. I cover the ziti with the foil, greased side down.

Now it’s time to bake! I slide the dish into the oven for 20 minutes and when the timer goes off, remove the pan from the heat. After combining the mozzarella and Parmesan cheese in a small bowl, I sprinkle it over the ziti and bake the dish, uncovered, for another 5 minutes. The final timer beeps and we’re officially done for the day.

The Final Product

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This looks like glorious, ziti heaven. Pasta is a gift and we are not worthy. But as for time…

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Almost an hour over the promised 45 minutes, but the original recipe did not factor in cooking the chicken sausage and the pasta water did not want to boil today. Hopefully next time won’t be such a time-killer, but for now I’m just ready to dig in.

The Verdict

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YUM?!?! Who knew that pumpkin and pasta would go so well together? Although pumpkin ravioli is pretty fantastic, in my opinion, so I shouldn’t be too surprised.

My only complaint is a mistake on my end. The recipe called for baby spinach, but I used larger leafs and they didn’t wilt down as much as intended, giving it a sharper flavor. It’s still fantastic, however, and we down half of it in one go. This healthier, fall-inspired twist on a beloved Italian cuisine is definitely one to add to the autumn agenda.

Ingredients/Directions

INGREDIENTS

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 4 cups (12 oz.) dry regular or whole-wheat ziti
  • 1 can (15 oz.) LIBBY’S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 can (12 fl. oz.) NESTLÉ® CARNATION® Evaporated Fat Free Milk
  • 4 links (12 oz.) fully-cooked Italian-seasoned chicken sausage, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 pkg. (6 oz.) or about 4 cups pre-washed baby spinach
  • 1 cup (4 oz.) shredded part-skim or 2% milk reduced-fat mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup (1.5 oz.) shredded Parmesan cheese
INSTRUCTIONS

PREHEAT oven to 425º F. Spray 4-quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

PREPARE pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water and set aside for later use. Drain pasta; return to cooking pot.

MEANWHILE, COMBINE pumpkin, flour, garlic powder, salt, nutmeg and cayenne pepper in medium skillet over medium heat. Slowly add evaporated milk, stirring until smooth. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes or until mixture begins to thicken slightly. Pour over pasta in pot. Add sausage and reserved pasta cooking water; stir well.

SPREAD half of the pasta mixture into prepared baking dish. Top with spinach. Cover with remaining pasta mixture. Lightly spray piece of foil with nonstick cooking spray. Cover ziti with foil, greased side down.

BAKE for 20 minutes or until heated through. Combine mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses in small bowl. Remove foil; sprinkle with cheese mixture. Bake, uncovered, for an additional 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

 

Have a food you’d like to see me klutz around with? Let me know in the comments or reach out through my contact page!

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