Entrees/ Recipes/ Sides/ vegetarian recipes

Pumpkin-Sage Baked Ziti

Pumpkin-Sage Baked Ziti Recipe

Everyone is all about pumpkin spice right now and while I love pumpkin spice too, I also like pumpkin without the spice. Pumpkin is kind of like tofu in that it doesn’t really taste like anything. It’s mildly squashy (squashy is a word!), but it’s really all about what you add to it. The flavor and scent most people attribute to pumpkin is actually the spices commonly used with itโ€”without those spices, pumpkin can be something completely different.

I’ve made a few pumpkin pasta recipes in the past two years and one of my favorites is Kitchen Treaty’s Creamy Pumpkin Baked Rigatoni. Pumpkin puree makes a great base for a pasta sauceโ€”it’s naturally creamy, so it gives you an alfredo-like texture without having to use heavy cream. I adapted Kare’s recipe to make it into a baked ziti and added sage both to the sauce and as a toppingโ€”the mild flavor of the pumpkin sauce lets the sage really shine in this dish.

I tested this recipe with fontina as a topping at first, but we preferred using a good sharp white cheddar. So between the pumpkin sauce and the cheddar, this is really not an authentic baked ziti. (If you’re looking for a more authentic version, I have a Vegetable Baked Ziti recipe too!) That’s okay though! Even if it’s not authentic, I still think it’s the perfect baked ziti for fall.

This post was originally published on September 22, 2014.


Pumpkin-Sage Baked Ziti

Pumpkin-Sage Baked Ziti Recipe

A creamy, fall-inspired baked ziti recipe, adapted from Kitchen Treaty’s Creamy Pumpkin Baked Rigatoni.

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6 servings


  • 3 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 large shallots, diced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups reduced-fat (2%) or whole milk
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced sage leaves, divided
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 8 ounces whole wheat penne, cooked al dente
  • 3/4 cup shredded sharp white cheddar cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 350ยบF and spray a square baking dish with an oil mister or cooking spray.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring often, until just beginning to brown, about 7 minutes. Sprinkle the flour into the skillet and give it a good stir. Cook, continuing to stir often, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Grab a whisk and slowly pour the milk into the skillet, whisking it into the flour mixture. Once the milk is incorporated and the sauce is smooth, add the pumpkin to the skillet and whisk that in. Let the sauce cook on medium heat until it’s thickened, about 7 minutes, continuing to whisk often.
  3. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup of the sage leaves and a pinch of nutmeg. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then fold in the penne. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and top with the shredded cheese. Cover the baking dish with foil and place it in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes covered, then uncover and cook for 10 minutes more. If you want a browned top, broil for about 5 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown.
  4. While the casserole is baking, make the crispy sage topping. Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the remaining sage to the skillet and cook, stirring often, until crispy, about 3 minutes. Keep a close eye on the sage because it will go from crispy to burnt really quickly! When the sage is done, transfer it to a paper towel to soak up some of the excess oil. Sprinkle the crispy sage onto the baked ziti before serving.

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  • Reply
    Sam @ PancakeWarriors
    September 22, 2014 at 9:53 am

    Oh pumpkin and sage are so beautful together. I love the use of pumpkin in savory dishes! Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Becca @ Amuse Your Bouche
    September 22, 2014 at 10:34 am

    This looks just gorgeous! Can’t beat comforting baked pasta at this time of year, and pumpkin and sage are such a classic combination. Love it!

  • Reply
    Hannah @ CleanEatingVeggieGirl
    September 22, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    This sounds amazing! The pumpkin and cheese combination is surprisingly delicious, so I am looking forward to trything this.

  • Reply
    Tina muir
    September 22, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    Ooooh this looks delightful! Yum! This is exactly the kind of warming dinner I want to have on those fall nights. Love the ingredients in this, although I m not sure I have sage, and that is kind of important ๐Ÿ™‚ Join me for meatless monday please? Lots of great recipes on there today ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    Millie | Add A Little
    September 22, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    Sounds gorgeous – pumpkin and sage is a combination made in heaven!

  • Reply
    Katie (The Muffin Myth)
    September 22, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    I looooove pumpkin in a cheese sauce like this. I’ve got a pumpkin mac and cheese recipe, and the sauce is so velvety smooth. I’ll definitely have to try this baked ziti, and yes, the sage is a perfect addition.

  • Reply
    Laura (Tutti Dolci)
    September 22, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    I love anything pumpkins sage, this is the perfect fall pasta!

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    September 22, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    Gosh this looks so so good!!

  • Reply
    September 23, 2014 at 8:06 am

    I love the creamy, sharp cheddar with the sweet pumpkin. And penne is something that I rarely pick up for some reason. I need to change this! What a gorgeous recipe to start fall. Warm and cozy ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    September 23, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    How could you make this vegan? I am allergic to dairy. Would really like to make it but not sure how to substitute nor what to substitute. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      September 30, 2014 at 4:29 pm

      It’s hard to say for sure without testing it myself, but I’d try a non-dairy milk and nutritional yeast in the sauce, and a meltable vegan cheese (like Daiya) for the topping.

  • Reply
    September 23, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    Made this for dinner last night, and it was absolutely delicious! Thank you!

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      September 30, 2014 at 4:25 pm

      I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    Erin @ The Spiffy Cookie
    September 23, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    I’m actually not ready to break out the pumpkin just yet, still working on apple season! But I definitely love pumpkin and sage together and will save this for later!

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      September 30, 2014 at 4:25 pm

      I have a huge bag of Honeycrisps in the kitchen waiting to be devoured. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    Katie | Healthy Seasonal Recipes
    September 23, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    I love the squashy (ha!) fall version of baked ziti you have here, and I love Emily’s photos too! I am totally in favor of a non-traditonal recipe like this.

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      September 30, 2014 at 4:21 pm

      Casseroles are tough to photograph, but Emily managed to make it look beautiful! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    September 24, 2014 at 1:03 am

    Made this tonight. Oh my goodness…it was amazing! I choose to broil for 5 mins at the end of baking which added a wonderful crisp to the top. I will make this again and again!

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      September 30, 2014 at 4:20 pm

      Thank you for your comment – I’m happy to hear it was a winner! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    September 25, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    I LOVE pumpkin in savory recipes – without the traditional pumpkin spice, of course! Especially in cheesy dishes. Baked ziti FTW!

  • Reply
    Rachel D
    September 29, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    I made this last night and oh my it was delicious-I added cubed roasted butternut squash and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Hopefully it makes great leftovers.

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      September 30, 2014 at 4:06 pm

      Thanks for the comment – I’m happy to hear the recipe was a hit! I can confirm that the leftovers ARE great. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    September 29, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    Made this last night and it was wonderful! I added some panko crumbs on top for a little crunchiness, but otherwise made the recipe as written and turned out great. The fried sage made it extra fancy ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      September 30, 2014 at 4:05 pm

      I thought about adding panko to it too! You can never go wrong with panko. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    September 29, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    I made this last night and it is SO good! Your other baked ziti recipe is also a regular in my house. Please create more baked-pasta recipes – you clearly have an amazing talent for them!

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      September 30, 2014 at 4:03 pm

      I’m so happy to hear that! Now that it’s fall, I’m sure I’ll have a few more recipes like this over the coming months. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    September 30, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    Awesome recipe, whole family enjoyed it. Definitely recommend the broil, the crispy cheese bites were the best bite. I didn’t burn my sage either!

  • Reply
    October 3, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    Ahhhh, this looks so magical! I’m definitely going to have to give it a try this fall. I love fall comfort foods!

  • Reply
    October 25, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    I just recently realized that sage can be eaten (instead treating it solely as a healing plant),
    this recipe will be just perfect to get into another sage cooking adventure – I’m sure it will be pretty successful ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    December 3, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    Thanks for the great recipe! I could barely contain myself from eating it all when pouring it into the dish pre-bake! Just a tip for the other readers– I heated the milk in a saucepan before adding it to the flour mixture, and I think that helped preventing lumps and kept the sauce smoother. This was delicious and I will definitely be making it again.

  • Reply
    January 3, 2015 at 4:05 pm

    i just wanted to to let you know that I made this for some friends on New Year’s Eve and it was a big hit. I paired it with your Kale and Delicata Squash Salad with Citrus-Maple Vinaigrette and it made a beautiful and delicious dish. Thanks for sharing all these great, vegetarian recipes!

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      January 6, 2015 at 4:01 pm

      I’m so glad to hear both recipes were a hit! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    Mary @ Fit and Fed
    September 22, 2015 at 10:50 am

    Beautiful, Kiersten, and so well presented. The orange pumpkin in it almost looks like a cheese and makes this look so rich and creamyโ€“ and I’m sure it is, but in a healthier way with just a little whole milk and cheese. It really is fall, breaking out the pumpkin and the sage.

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      September 23, 2015 at 8:24 pm

      Thank you! I’m never quite ready for summer to end, but pumpkin season certainly softens the blow. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    October 12, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    made this saturday.. very much enjoyed it!! our first pumpkin pasta dish ever.. thank so much ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Reply
      October 20, 2015 at 9:04 pm

      I’m glad you enjoyed it – thanks for your comment!

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