Butternut-Sage Pasta Al Forno

  • Yield 8 servings

This pasta al forno or baked ziti dish is much more sophisticated than the typical marinara-baked pasta and makes a lovely holiday entree for everyone.

Butternut-Sage Pasta Al Forno
Mark Boughton Photography / styling by Teresa Blackburn


Butternut Squash:
1 large butternut squash, halved and seeded
1/2 cup water
Tomato Sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (28-ounce) can chopped plum tomatoes with juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
Cheese Filling:
3 cups low-fat ricotta cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup minced sage leaves
1 tablespoon minced lemon peel
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
To Assemble Dish:
1/2 pound penne or rigatoni pasta, cooked al dente, cooked according to package directions
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. To make squash: Place butternut squash halves, cut side down, in a baking pan. Add 1/2 cup water and bake 35 to 40 minutes until tender. Cool and then scoop squash flesh from shell. Set aside.
  3. To make sauce: Heat olive oil in a large nonreactive saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and saute until soft. Add tomatoes, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Add the basil; set aside.
  4. To make filling: Combine ricotta, eggs, sage, lemon peel, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a large bowl with a wooden spoon. Add cooked butternut squash and combine well. Filling can be chunky; it doesn’t have to be mixed until smooth.
  5. To assemble: Ladle half the sauce onto bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Place pasta in baking dish and spread evenly. Spoon squash filling over the pasta (it doesn’t have to be an even layer; it can look like little pillows, and you may leave small mounds with some pasta peeking out).
  6. Ladle remaining sauce over squash and top with mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 45 to 50 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes until golden brown. Allow to rest 10 minutes before serving.