It’s not hard to throw together a fabulous meal when you have a few basic ingredients and an adventurous spirit.
Case in point – this butternut squash ravioli.
We had two butternut squash/futzu hybrids left from the summer. I only needed one. We had flour. Eggs. Olive oil. Salt and pepper. Romano cheese. Pepperoni. (Pepperoni? Yeah, I cut it very small and added it in, but no one noticed it, so I’d leave it out next time.)
That’s all I needed to make the ravioli.
And then there’s the sauce.
Butter. Fresh sage. Garlic. Walnuts.
(Well, there’s also a cheese sauce I made for Julia. She really wanted macaroni and cheese, so I told her she could put cheese sauce on the ravioli, and that worked for her.)
First thing, you should cook the squash. I cut mine into 6 pieces, removed the seeds, left the skin on, and placed the squash, skin up, in an oiled baking pan. I roasted it in a 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes – until the flesh was easily pierced by a sharp knife.
I let the squash cool a bit, and then I scraped it into a bowl to finish cooling.
Time to make pasta.
Have you ever made pasta before?
If you haven’t, you should give it a try. It’s not hard at all.
You just need the flour and the eggs.
For this recipe, I used 5 large eggs and about 14 oz of flour. I put the flour on the counter, made a well in the middle, and cracked the eggs into the well.
(I also got distracted by the look of the egg whites against the dry flour. So I took more pictures than I needed. I do that sometimes.)
Anyway, you start to whisk the eggs together – gently, so you don’t break the flour wall and end up chasing runaway whites and yolks all over the countertop – and gradually incorporate the flour. It will look lumpy and weird at first, but stick with it and eventually it will all come together into a loose dough.
At that point it might be easier to use your hands and a bench scraper to lift and turn the dough, kneading it carefully until enough flour is incorporated for it to look and feel more like a dough. Knead for about ten minutes, until the dough ball is smooth and elastic.
Wrap it in plastic and let it rest on your counter for about twenty minutes.
While the dough rests, get everything else ready.
I mashed the squash with salt and pepper first, then I added in some minced pepperoni, and some grated romano. Maybe 1/4 cup.
For the sauce, I minced some garlic and softened that in some butter. I picked some sage from the garden out front, and grabbed a handful of raw walnuts. I chopped some and left some pieces whole.
Time to roll out the pasta dough.
You can use either a rolling pin and a lot of elbow grease, or you can use a pasta roller. The roller is quicker, so that’s what I used yesterday.
I cut the ball of dough into 8 pieces, flattened each into a rectangle about 1/4 inch thick, and then ran each piece through the pasta roller. I started at the widest setting, and gradually worked up to the second-thinnest setting.
At first, I thought I’d do something fancy, so I cut out pasta hearts and made the ravioli that way….
But that was rather time consuming, so for the rest of the ravioili I just cut squares or rectangles, placed the filling in the center, brushed the edges with water, and folded one side over to match up the corners.
See how easy that is?
Set the completed ravioli aside on a lightly floured towel. Once you’ve made all of them, cook them, in batches, in boiling salted water. Fresh pasta cooks very quickly. When you put the ravioli in, they will sink to the bottom. When they are done, they will float to the top. Let them float there for a minute longer, then remove those and cook the next batch.
Since you’re at the stove watching pasta boil, this is a good time to make the browned butter sauce.
Melt some butter in a pan. I think we used half a stick of salted butter (I don’t really know – Bill made the sauce because I was still filling ravioli.). While the butter is melting, add in the sage leaves and the walnuts, and cook over low heat. The butter will melt and start to brown. You might panic and think Oh no! I’ve burnt the butter! But no, you haven’t. You’ve just browned it. Weird, I know. But trust me. The butter develops a nutty flavor as it browns, and when you combine that with the sage leaves…it’s incredible. And the addition of walnuts adds some crunch, and a different kind of nutty flavor, and some protein. Oh – and remember that garlic I softened way back at the beginning of this post? Once your butter has browned, and the sage leaves are crispy and fragrant, shut off the heat, move the pan to a cold burner, and stir in the softened garlic.
To serve – place some ravioli on a plate, spoon some of the browned sage and walnut butter over the ravioli, and grate some parmesan or romano over everything.
We love browned butter and sage here. We spoon it over fresh trout or other seafood, and, of course, it’s great on any kind of pasta. The kids like it, too.
Alex, who doesn’t love squash, had seconds at dinner time. He loves browned butter and sage that much.
And Julia? She had some of the cheese sauce (just a simple white sauce with shredded cheese stirred in), but switched to the browned butter sauce. She had seconds as well.
What better recommendations could you ask for?
Butternut Squash Ravioli with Browned Butter, Sage and Walnut Sauce
1 butternut squash (or your favorite winter squash) – about 1 1/2 lbs.
1/4 cup freshly grated romano or parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Pasta Dough –
14 oz all-purpose flour
5 large eggs
Browned Butter, Sage and Walnut Sauce –
1/2 stick plus 2 tablespoons salted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup raw walnuts, some chopped, some left whole
About 20 fresh sage leaves
More romano cheese, for garnish
What to do:
First, cook your squash. To bring out the most flavor, I roast mine. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Pour a little olive oil in the bottom of a 13” x 9” baking dish. Cut your squash into 6 or 8 pieces. Remove the seeds, and place the squash, flesh-side down, in the baking dish. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until a sharp knife pierces the squash easily. Roasting time will vary depending on the thickness of your squash.
While the squash cooks, make your dough.
Place the flour on your counter, make a well in the center, and crack your eggs into the well. With a fork, mix the eggs together and then gradually work the flour into the eggs. Keep at it, pressing around the outside of the flour “wall” to make sure your eggs don’t escape. Once the mixture of egg and flour has reached a very thick batter stage, put down your fork, roll up your sleeves, and use your hands. Work the rest of the flour into the dough, kneading firmly, about ten minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest about 20-30 minutes.
When the squash is done, remove it from the oven, let it cool a bit, then peel off the skin and place the cooked squash in a bowl. Mash it with some salt and pepper, and then stir in the grated romano or parmesan.
That’s it. Your filling is ready.
Get a pot of salted water going on the stove top while you roll out the dough.
Remove your dough from the plastic and divide it into 6-8 pieces. Flatten each piece into a rectangle about a quarter inch thick. Using a pasta roller on the widest setting, start working your dough through the roller, gradually decreasing the thickness. My pasta roller settings range from 1 (widest) to 6 (thinnest), and I stopped at 5. Let the dough rest a moment before you start cutting.
(Dough needs to rest because it has, in effect, been running laps through the pasta roller. The gluten in the dough is all tight at this point, and will shrink or contract if you try to cut it right away. Let it rest so the gluten strands relax. It’ll be easier to work with.)
You can either cut the dough into shapes for your ravioli, or you can just cut the sheets into squares or rectangles.
Once you’ve either cut or sliced your pasta shapes, it’s time to fill them. Place a small – teaspoon or less – amount of filling on the pasta, brush water around the edges of the dough, place the top layer of pasta on, and press the edges together. As you seal the ravioli, try to press out any air that’s in there. Set aside the sealed ravioli on a towel lightly dusted with flour.
When the ravioli are done and the water is boiling, start cooking the pasta in batches – about 10-15 ravioli at a time, depending on the size of your pot. The ravioli will sink to the bottom and then rise to the top when almost cooked through. Let them float on top another minute, and then remove, drain, and set aside in a warm bowl.
To make the sauce (you can do this while the pasta is cooking), melt 2 tablespoons butter in a pan over medium low heat. Add in the minced garlic and let it cook until softened and some of the pieces are just starting to turn golden. Remove the softened garlic and set aside for now. Put the rest of the butter in the pan, add in the sage leaves and walnuts, and cook over low heat, stirring now and then, until the butter has browned and the sage leaves are crisp and intoxicatingly fragrant. Remove from heat and stir in the softened garlic now.
To serve, place some ravioli in a bowl or on a plate, spoon some of the browned butter, sage and walnut sauce over the top, and top with shaved romano or parmesan.