December 13, 2010

Butternut Squash Ravioli

So.... I need a pasta machine if I'm ever gonna do this again. I love kneading bread, and I don't mind that my arms can get sore from it, or that 10 minutes of kneading can feel like 50 minutes of cardio- because it always produces good results (and sometimes sore arms).  It's worth it.  But rolling out pasta as thin as you can, giving it time to rest so it will stop fighting you by springing back after each roll, and then thinking you made it sooo thin only to have it come out surprisingly thick is just not for me. I need results.  Or maybe I should say, I knead results.  

This was a delightful dish- and if there had been a pasta machine to help out with rolling the dough nice and thin, it would have been perfect.  It started with homemade ricotta.  I've been making mozzarella and gave ricotta a try for the first time just for these ravioli.  Mozzarella is a little tricky.  There are more steps, which means more chances to mess up.  Ricotta has 2 steps.  The first is to heat the milk, the second is to drain the curds.  
That's it... in about an hour you have some great cheese.  
While you're waiting for the curds to drain, you can make pasta dough, chop and roast some butternut squash, and steel yourself for a battle of wills against a pile of flour and eggs that even the sturdiest marble rolling pin cannot win.
The Ominous Ravioli Mounds
I won't tell you about the cheese-making, since there are lots of other places with better advice than I could give.  I will tell you that I'd invest in citric acid if you plan on doing it more than once, as it'll be a lot more predictable than lemon juice, but vinegar gets a pretty good rap. Also, don't discard the whey- save it in your fridge and use it to bake bread, make soups, cookies, muffins, cook beans, etc. (basically anywhere you'd use water) because it's full of good stuff.  

Butternut squash ravioli

1 small butternut squash (or half of one larger squash)
olive oil
3/4 cup ricotta
dash of nutmeg
dash of cinnamon
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350F.  Peel and dice the butternut squash. Toss with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes, or until fork-tender.  Combine the squash with the rest of the ingredients- I did this in a bowl and mashed it together with an emulsion blender.  You could also do it in a food processor.  Taste for seasoning, and add salt if needed.**

1.5 cups flour
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp water
Put all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until it starts to come together.  Remove and put on counter, knead together, adding more water drop by drop if necessary.  It should form a soft, shiny dough.  Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.  
Divide it in half and roll out each piece as thin as you possibly can. Take a 5-minute break if you notice the dough springing back and becoming difficult to roll. 

Put spoonfuls of filling onto one piece of the dough, spaced about an inch apart, and lay the other sheet of dough on top.  Press the second sheet of dough around the filling.  You may need to seal the two pieces of dough with some water.  Using a sharp knife or pizza or pastry cutter, cut squares around each ravioli.  Re-roll the dough scraps and make a few last raviolis.  Use your fingers or a fork to press the edges together and place on a floured surface until ready to cook.
Boil water with a small drizzle of olive oil and a good sprinkling of salt.  Drop the raviolis in a few at a time, so that they aren't crowded.  Let them cook for about 5 minutes each, then remove.  Top with the sauce of your choice and enjoy.

sauce or topping
I topped ours with a quick saute of swiss chard, red onion, and garlic, and a sprinkling of roasted squash seeds (rinsed, tossed with oil, baked at 350F for 30 minutes).  But a common recipe is to use a brown butter and sage sauce, and I think either topping would be even better with bacon.  But then, isn't everything?

** We had loads of leftover filling.  If you do, then here are some suggestions for using it up:  thinned with some water and white wine and then tossed with pasta and topped with parmesan, folded into a calzone with some broccoli, smeared on bread and toasted until browned, add flour until you get a dough and make gnocchi

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