Thursday, July 7, 2011

Butternut Squash Ravioli w/ Butter & Basil

Back in February of  2010, a dashing young gentleman treated me to a night at the symphony (Mahler's 5th—the finale is particularly wonderful) and dinner at one of Provo's swankiest eateries. I ordered a plate of butternut squash ravioli that was so subtle yet rich in depth and flavor that it led to a culinary epiphany. Since then, I've been trying to hone the art of subtle cooking that enhances a few key flavors. I had yet to try to replicate those influential raviolis, but when three butternut squash arrived in this weeks' Bountiful Basket, it seemed that the time was as ripe as the vegetables.
Have you threatened any vegetables lately?

This was my first experience with making pasta—from flour to finished product—myself. I have four main observations: 1) making ravioli is a labor of love; 2) fresh eggs (mine came from a neighbor's farm this morning) are crucial to the flavor and texture; 3) the water for boiling the pasta must be really salty; and 4) it's totally worth the extra effort.

Butternut squash was another ingredient I'd never handled before. I found that roasting the squash with some spices before pureeing it upped the flavor and softened the texture. Note: dismantling a butternut requires a very sharp knife.
Butternuts are beautiful.

Butternut Squash Ravioli
I started roasting the squash first, then made the pasta dough while the squash cooled. While the dough rested, I washed the bowl of the Cuisinart, then whipped the filling together. This gave the flavors of the filling some time to meld while I rolled out the dough by hand. My first attempt looked like an amoeba with vertigo. It's okay if it's not perfect.

For Filling
2 medium butternut squash, peeled and diced into cubes
5-9 cloves of garlic (depending on preference), tops and bottoms trimmed but with the skin on
3 tblsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
1 tsp. curry
further 1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 tsp. onion powder
dash allspice
dash paprika
1/3 cup grated parmesan (not the powdery stuff. no.)

1. Set oven to 400°F. Wash and peel the squash (this is a bit tricky, but you can handle it). Cut off the top stem and a small portion of the bottom to make a steady base. Cut lengthwise once, then scoop out seeds. Dice into small cubes. Drizzle olive oil onto a baking sheet and scatter squash evenly; add whole garlic cloves. Sprinkle with nutmeg, curry, salt and pepper to taste. Bake for 20 minutes, then stir. Bake for another 20 minutes or until the squash is soft and shows some browning around the edges. Take the squash out of the oven to cool while you make the pasta.
Dough balls need to be kneaded.

For Pasta (from America's Test Kitchen's The New Best Recipe)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 fresh eggs

2. Add flour to the bowl of Cuisinart and pulse to evenly incorporate air. Add eggs and blend until a dough ball forms, rolling cleanly around the bowl. There will still be some small bits of dough not in the ball.  If the dough doesn't stick together, add water gradually by teaspoons. If the dough is sticky and clings to the bowl, add flour by tablespoons until it comes together. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes, adding a bit more flour until the dough feels soft, but not tacky. Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside.

3. Clean Cuisinart and finish the  filling. Add roasted squash and garlic to the bowl, carefully removing the skins from the garlic first. Add 1/2 tsp additional nutmeg, 1 tsp onion powder, a dash of paprika, a dash of allspice, and salt and pepper to taste. Add grated parmesan. The squash will be sweet, but don't over-salt it. Blend until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl periodically.
Squash filling and my second, more uniform strip of dough.

4. Divide pasta dough into three pieces. Cover your working surface with a light dusting of flour and roll the dough out until it is very thin, about the thickness of a tortilla. As you roll, flip the dough every so often, flouring the bottom and top as you work to prevent sticking. When the dough is thin and even, use a pizza cutter (or ravioli cutter, if you have one!) to cut it into 2 1/2 inch strips; loosen strips from countertop by gentle lifting them after they've been cut. Place squash filling by teaspoon-amount along one strip, about every 2 to 3 inches. Wet your finger with a small amount of water and trace along the edges of the ravioli strip and in between each bit of filling. Carefully place a second strip of dough on top of the first strip and filling, pressing the air out and sealing each bundle of joy filling. Divide the raviolis with a pizza cutter. Set made ravioli on a baking sheet lined with a dish towel while you repeat, repeat, repeat, and repeat, etc.,  until you've used all of your dough.
Ready Ravioli—time to boil.

5. Fill a very large pot with hot water and bring it to a boil. Add at least one tablespoon of salt per quart of water; it should taste like seawater. Turn heat down to continue a rapid simmer, and carefully drop raviolis in to boil. Don't crowd the pot. Cook raviolis for about 4 minutes.

6. Serve topped with butter, finely shredded fresh basil, parmesan cheese, and pepper. I orignally served this pasta with a basil cream sauce, but the raviolis have more than enough flavor to stand alone.



Danielle said...

mmmmm this sounds soo good!! I think I may try to get Grant to make it with me soon!! :)

Kristen said...


Kristen said...

I totally went to Mahler's 2nd symphony yesterday. It was amazing!

Aimee said...

we just got the kitchen aid attachment for making noodles, but of course it doesn't have one for ravioli, which i love. this looks so tasty!

Jaynan said...

oh my! that looks sooooo bad! i want some