I had a culinary triumph this weekend.
There are several items in the food world that have always intimidated me. I have generally tried them, failed, and then spent (wasted) much time trying to not make them again. Pizza crust is one of these things. So is bread. I overcame that one not too long ago. The most recent is fresh pasta.
Is it just me, or am I intimidated by Italian carbohydrates?
Anyway, out of the middle of nowhere, I decided it was high time I conquered fresh pasta. I actually didn't conquer it so much as I nicely sidled up to it, got affectionate, and made a new friend. It did not make sense to me to put a whole lot of effort into making regular old spaghetti. If I was going to do this, it had to be worthwhile. I had a nice big batch of leftover squash and a big sage plant in my garden. I decided on rustic looking squash ravioli.
This was absolutely divine. The browned butter makes all the difference. I made the first batch on Saturday and we just melted the butter with the sage. On Sunday night, I browned the butter with the sage in it. The toasted milk solids in the browned butter were wonderful and the sage was fried to a marvelous crisp.
If you are not compelled to bust out your pasta maker any time soon, consider picking up some wonton wrappers in the produce section of the grocery store. They will be a little thin, but should do the job nicely. Even if you don't make ravioli at all, brown some butter with a good handful of sage in it. You won't be sorry.
Squash Ravioli with Sage Browned Butter
1 winter squash (butternut, buttercup, acorn, etc.) - about 2 cups of flesh
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground corriander
3 Tablespoons orange juice
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
salt to taste
Roast the squash whole in the oven at 325 F until tender. Cut in half, remove and discard seeds and membranes. Scoop flesh into a small bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix well to combine. Allow to cool fully.
500 grams all-purpose flour (about 3-1/2 to 4 cups, depending on humidity)
1 egg, lightly beaten for wash
Place flour in a bowl, make a well in the center and add the 4 eggs. Begin to combine the eggs and the flour with your hand, gradually incorporating more flour until you have a very firm dough. The dough should not be at all sticky. Pour this out onto the counter or kneading board. Knead the dough until it is completely homogeneous, adding more flour as necessary.
When it is smooth and even, cut about 1/5 of the mixture off and cover the rest of the dough with plastic wrap. Roll the small piece of dough through the widest setting on the pasta maker about 6 times, folding in half between each pass. Next, narrow the pasta maker one setting with each pass through the machine until next-to-last setting. The dough will not be quite transparent, but will be quite delicate.
Repeat this process with another piece of the dough so you have two very long sheets. Lay one sheet on the counter and brush completely with egg wash. In two long columns, dot about 1 Tablespoon of squash mixture every 3 inches or so. Lay the second sheet on top and, working carefully to line up the edges and remove air pockets, seal the two sheets together. Use a sharp knife or pastry cutter to cut between the ravioli. Lay flat on a floured surface. *
Sage Browned Butter
1 stick salted butter
4 Tablespoons fresh sage leaves
Place the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat to melt. Meanwhile, stack the sage leaves in a neat pile and slice very thinly crosswise to get short strips. Add the sage to the butter and cook until the butter separates and the solids become a toasted brown color. Remove from heat immediately.
Boil a pot of water, cook the ravioli (4 per person for an appetizer) for about 4 minutes (5-6 minutes from frozen). Serve with about 1 Tablespoon of sage browned butter per person.
(This will make far more squash than you will need for the pasta. The pasta will serve about 12-16 as an appetizer or 6-8 as an entree. The sage browned butter will serve 8 as an appetizer)
* If you would like to freeze these (which works really well) do so pretty quickly. Freeze them on waxed or parchment paper in a single layer until solid, then pack carefully into a freezer-safe ziplock bag or storage container. Do not stack unless they are frozen; they will stick together and you will cry.