In our house, pasta is a staple food. As a simple, quick meal, it is a veritable chameleon, changing depending on the herbs and produce I have season to season, or what meats I have in the fridge. Over the years, I have become a master of ragus of all sorts – thick, sultry sauces with chunks of rich protein, coating every strand of pasta with luscious flavor, and satisfying our family whether it braised for hours or mere minutes. And it was always, ALWAYS dried pasta from a box, cooked al dente.
Things changed for our home pasta culture when we began raising backyard chickens. Suddenly, we were inundated with a wealth of eggs, which quickly began piling on the counters in bowls, and in cartons in the fridge. Even giving away to neighbors didn’t slow the parade of shells, and there is only so much scrambled egg one person can consume in a week. I had to find another outlet. So, as is usual, I turned to my old friend, the pasta.
Beautiful, fresh pasta was one kind we rarely, if ever ate at home, instead reserved as a special order from a fine Italian cucina. But, I thought, why not? Maybe this would be a fun project to do with my daughter, who was beginning to show a budding interest in cooking.
So, we cracked some eggs into a flour well, kneaded for some time, and ended up with a silky, tight ball of fresh pasta dough. As ingredients go, there’s only three: flour, eggs and salt. That’s it! What to DO with it, now, was the key question. Noodles? Too obvious (although delicious). Carbonara? Had eggs, but no bacon, and I craved something a bit more refined and light.
My child is an avid ravioli eater, and in the fall the farm provides us with mountains of butternut squash, so I married the two into what is a quite traditional, vegetarian ravioli. It was hearty enough for a main meal, rich enough to be a substitute for a meat dish, and contained all those cool-weather flavors that ooze comfort. I was concerned at first, since we rarely eat a strictly vegetarian meal, but the nutty richness of brown butter and a whisper of grated cheese rounded out the umami character of the dish, making it quite savory and satisfying. It is a bit more involved than other recipes, but comes together very simply with few ingredients and is well worth the effort. Finished with slivers of fresh sage. I could think of no more elegant way to honor one of the most iconic foods of the season, our great friend the butternut squash!
Butternut Squash and Sage Ravioli
2 ½ c. all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 butternut squash, cut in half, seeds removed
1 c. fresh ricotta cheese, drained
¼ c. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
¼ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. white pepper
50-60 fresh sage leaves
2 sticks unsalted butter
pasta roller, or rolling pin
1. In a food processor, combine flour, eggs, 1 tbsp. olive oil and ½ tsp. salt. Pulse to form a dough ball. Remove and knead dough for 5-10 minutes, until it forms a smooth, silky dough. Wrap and refrigerate.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Rub cut sides of squash with 1 tbsp. oil and 1 tsp. salt. Place cut side down on baking sheet; roast 45 minutes. Scoop soft flesh into a food processor and process until smooth. Allow to cool in a bowl.
3. Add both cheeses, nutmeg, and pepper, combine thoroughly. Place in a large ziptop bag. Refrigerate.
4. Have a cup of water handy with a pastry brush. Remove dough from fridge and let sit for 20 minutes. Cut into quarters. Working with one piece at a time, roll in the pasta machine to number 6 thickness (alternatively, use a rolling pin and roll on a floured board to 1/16 inch thickness – you should be able to see your hand through the dough). Use a 1 ½ inch biscuit cutter to make as many pasta rounds as possible.
5. Lay one sage leaf on half of the rounds. Cut a corner off of the bag with the squash filling, and pipe about a teaspoon of filling on top of the sage. Brush around the edges with water, and top with another dough round. Press around filling to remove any air bubbles and seal the ravioli. Place on a floured baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Let sit for 30 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, heat the butter and ½ tsp. salt in a large saucepan over medium heat until becoming golden brown and fragrant. Finely slice remaining sage leaves and add to butter. Remove from heat.
7. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Slide in ravioli in batches and cook until they float, about 2 minutes. Drain and add all ravioli to the brown butter, tossing to coat. Serve hot, topped with additional grated Parmesan cheese.