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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Buttercup Squash Ravioli with Parmesan Butter Sauce

Some folks hear the term "hand-made" next to pasta and started heading for the hills. I can appreciate the convenience of store-bought ravioli, particularly now that grocery stores have started carrying good quality fresh raviolis. Even still there is something magical about the experience of making ravioli at home. I suspect the magic resides not only in the enhanced taste, but also in the simple grace of time taken out of a busy world. Making pasta is by no means as time consuming as some imagine, and it has a wonderful ritualistic feel to it. With fancy mixer attachments one can manage the skill alone, but I still think the essence of making pasta from scratch and transforming it into ravioli is that the task is better done together with family or friends.



Skip to information on buttercup squash
Skip to making the pasta
Skip to making the raviolis
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Full of the nesting instinct (I'm pregnant), I decided it was time to once again pull out our hand-crank pasta maker, roast some winter squash, and make ravioli. Pumpkin and Butternut varieties abound (and would certainly substitute here with little fuss) but I found myself drawn to the unconventional buttercup squash.

This would make a wonderful side dish for a Thanksgiving dinner. It brings an elegant and unexpected touch to a classically autumnal taste. Alternately, if you decide not to prepare squash raviolis as a delightful side to your Thanksgiving spread, this would be a wonderful way to use up any leftover roasted squash or sweet potatoes you may have after the big event. Transforming leftovers into a totally new food experience is always a welcome change from the monotony of four days of the same dishes being reheated ad nauseum.



The use of this tasty, healthy, creamy and unconventional squash makes this my contribution to Weekend Herb Blogging, now coordinated by Cook Almost Anything, and hosted this week by Scott of Real Epicurean.


About Buttercup


The flavor of buttercup squash is squarely in line with its other cousins from the orange-fleshed squash family: it has a similarly sweet and nutty taste to the more common buttercup or acorn squashes. But the consistency of buttercup is much creamier, with a texture more akin to a baked sweet potato than the more stringy and watery pumpkin or acorn squash. This innately creamy consistency makes it an ideal filling for ravioli, because the healthful flesh of this squash can be used without the unwanted fat and calories of additional thickeners.

Like other dark orange vegetables, buttercup squash is packed with nutrients. A standard 100 gram serving has less than 50 calories, only trace amounts of fat, but is relatively high in hunger-satisfying protein and fiber. Additionally, it packs in vitamins A, B and C as well as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. (wisegeek.com).

Botanically, squash is actually a fruit, although we typically think of it as a vegetable when putting it to use in our kitchens. The squash family also has historical significance: it was one of the "three sisters" that were the cornerstone of Native American dishes together with beans and corn. This trifecta of North American food was not just culinary, it was also agricultural. "These were usually planted together, with the cornstalk providing support for the climbing beans, and shade for the squash. The squash vines provided ground cover to limit weeds. The beans provided nitrogen fixing for all three crops." (wikipedia.org)

Making the Pasta





Pasta Dough:
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup semolina flour
3 eggs
2 Tbsp water

Combine the flour and semolina flour in a food processor. Add the eggs. Add 1 Tbsp of water. Process on low until dough begins to form. Slowly dribble the remaining tablespoon of water into the bowl of the processor while it is going. Stop adding water when the dough forms into a ball that sticks together (it may actually roll around inside the bowl as the processor spins).

Water is the part of making pasta that makes it more craft than recipe. Too dry and it will crumble hopelessly when you try to roll it out. Too wet and it will be impossible to work with. I know many cooks hate this sort of advice, but just summon your inner Italian grandma, and imagine her advising you to add "Just the right amount. Just enough." I believe in your ability to judge this. And heck, if you get it off a little now, that is just another excuse to make fresh pasta in the name of future progress.

Press together into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Allow to rest in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.

Making the Raviolis




Filling:
1-1.5 lb Buttercup squash (About 1-2 cups cooked and pureed)
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cloves

Lay the rolled pasta dough out in sheets. Spoon 1-1.5 tsp of filling every 2 inches or so (this will establish the size of the final raviolis). Once you have the entire sheet laid out, brush with egg wash in a grid around each of the piles of filling. Lay another pasta sheet on top of the first and press gently to expel any air and seal the pasta together. Cut with a ravioli roller/cutter.

Cook raviolis in boiling water until they float and are tender, about 2-4 minutes.

Sauce:
3 tablespoons butter
3-4 large shallots, cut crosswise into thin rounds, separated into rings
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper (preferably chipotle)
Parmesan cheese
Splash of cream (optional)

Cook shallots, thyme and red pepper flakes in butter until the shallots are carmelized and slightly crisp.

In a large wok style pan, combine cooked raviolis and the sauce, tossing to coat. Or, if you prefer, divide cooked raviolis into serving plates and divide the sauce among the plates.

Top with freshly shaved Parmesan cheese and, if you like, a splash of heavy cream.

Nutritional information, per serving (5 servings).
Not including Parmesan or cream garnishes.

6 comments:

ttfn300 said...

congrats :) I think that is news? (or i missed it, alot has been going on!!) such an exciting time for you guys. these look just delightful, pasta is definately on my list to try...

Maris said...

This looks amazing! I love Butternut squash and I've been itching to try my hand at making fresh pasta!

Darius T. Williams said...

Did someone say parmesan butter sauce?

I vote YES!

-DTW
www.everydaycookin.blogspot.com

Adrienne said...

I'm pretty sure your ead my mind, here. I've been thinking about making homemade ravioli and there is a squash on my mantle that I want to eat. AAaaalso cappellacci di zucca (pumpkin ravioli) are the traditional local pasta of the place I lived in Italy several years ago... served with a brown butter and sage sauce - it's delicious!

Joe and Ashley Bair said...

How are you supposed to roll out the pasta dough--how thin, I mean? That step is skipped ... do you have to have a pasta machine of some kind, or will a rolling pin do? This sounds so delicious.

Erin @ The Skinny Gourmet said...

TTFN: I think it is somewhat news. Hope you enjoy the pasta!

Maris, Darius and Adrienne: Glad the combination of sauce and filling struck a tasty chord with you. It is delish.

Joe and Ashley: We do indeed have a pasta machine of some kind. We have a hand crank operated manual pasta roller. It cost only $15 and is well worth the money if you ever want to make pasta at home. You can in theory roll it out by hand with a rolling pin. I believe that is what italian women were likely doing for decades before the industrial revolution. But I've never tried it myself, and I expect it would be at least a bit difficult.

As for thinness, whenever we made pasta we take the dough to the thinnest setting on our hand-crank machine.

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