Thinking of partaking in trick and treating this Halloween? Why not try your hand at this easy nutritious vegetarian dinner before you venture out? Your loved ones, both kids and adults alike, will devour this delicious noodle casserole. It’s a kicked up version of the beloved mac and cheese. That’s the trick. Veg haters won’t notice the pumpkin or the zucchini. The veg lovers will have a tough time stopping at just one serving. Serve with your favourite veg or a nice side salad.
Both fresh pumpkin and canned pumpkin are packed with nutrients, such as potassium, vitamin A and iron. As with canned tomatoes, the canned variety may be more beneficial in recipes such as casseroles and pies. The puréed fresh variety may add more moisture than desired. If you use fresh pumpkin purée in this recipe, then just cook it a bit longer.
The canned organic pumpkin blended with the ricotta adds a velvety consistency to the sauce. The addition of the savoury zucchini along with the aromatics and herbs coupled with parmesan makes this dish irresistible. I froze portion packets for future busy day dinners. Curbs the resist to eat the whole thing. Yum!
Baked Penne with Pumpkin and Ricotta
approx. 16 oz. (454 g) uncooked high fiber organic penne pasta (semolina kind is good or gluten free)
2 tsp. olive oil 1 large or two medium onions, chopped 6 cloves garlic, minced 1 medium to large organic zucchini, small dice 3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves 15 oz. (425 g) can pure organic pumpkin 10 oz (300 gram) container light ricotta cheese 1/2 cup water reserved from pasta pot coarse kosher salt and freshly ground pepper ground or hot pepper flakes or hot sauce, optional 1 tablespoon grainy mustard, optional 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, or more to cover
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water, according to package, but slightly undercooked, and reserve 1/2 cup of cooking water when done.
Meanwhile heat oil in large saucepan.
Sauté onions and garlic until softened and slightly carmelized. Stir in zucchini and fresh thyme, and sauté to release flavour.
Add pumpkin, ricotta cheese, and pasta water. Add ground hot pepper/sauce and/or grainy mustard, if using.
Pour drained pasta into 9 x 11 baking dish. Pour pumpkin ricotta mixture over to combine.
Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top (see suggestion below).
Bake until bubbly and golden, about 25 minutes.
Suggestion: Mix 1 cup toasted walnuts, 1 tablespoon thyme, zest of a lemon, and mix with Parmesan. Sprinkle over top. Then bake as per recipe. Adds some added flavour and texture.