Last week was far from satisfactory, culinary wise, but I have many more dining cards up my sleeve. Last night, Friday, was spent in an outrageous flurry of kitchen activity that ranged from steeping fruit in alcohol (for the Christmas pudding being made today) to making our own ravioli. In between all of that, I managed to also make Lemon Possets with Almond and Orange Florentines.
I'm not bragging. With the exception of the ravioli - always a fiddly task at the best of times - everything else was so easy that they barely deserve writing about. Which means that, of course, I will be writing about them!
For now though, I am going to write about the ravioli. You may have read on previous posts that I was planning on making ravioli with a pumpkin and amaretti filling. I recently saw this recipe on a rerun of Rick Stein's Food Heroes and it seems that he is my current food hero. I enjoy his non-cheffy approach to food and his ability to make complex dishes seem attainable in the home kitchen.
Ravioli filled with Pumpkin and Amaretti is a traditional Italian dish. You can rely on the Italians to discover an amazing flavour combination whilst us Brits still think that ham and pineapple is exotic.
I used butternut squash instead of pumpkin. Firstly because pumpkin is difficult to obtain here apart from a few weeks in October, and secondly because I find it easier to work with, lastly because the quantity of "meat" in a squash is more appropriate for a small family. When you consider the pumpkin squash as a vegetable, it has a sweet, slightly nutty taste that lends itself to both savoury and sweet dishes. I love the combination of salty/sweet together (my favourite snacks as a teenager were french fries dipped into chocolate milkshake and kitkat bars with ready salted crisps) so the idea of throwing amaretti - a heady, marzipan-type flavour - into the mix, had me seduced as soon as I saw it.
Making the pasta itself is relatively easy if you are the patient type. I am not at all patient but I have never made pasta before (previously only being allowed to serve as sous chef while Paul accepted the praise for the finished product) so felt it was time to start. In fact, I made the dough (an incredibly eggy-rich dough: 2 whole eggs and 4 yolks) on Thursday night because I believe that any dough benefits from resting in the refrigerater overnight. It also becomes infinitely more handleable. The kneading of dough is where my problems with patience come into being. 10 minutes of kneading is quite torturous for me: "Are 10 minutes up yet?" Paul: "No. Keep Kneading".
Friday night Paul eventually locates our pasta maker (which had been relegated to the basement when we moved), dusted it off and set it up on the counter. He started to roll the dough through the machine and as it became thinner it also began to resemble an old mans's string vest. However, this simply indicates that the dough wasn't kneaded for long enough ("are 10 minutes up yet?"). As you continue to feed it through the rollers, the gluten starts doing it's job and it starts to cohere.
After adjusting the rollers thinner and thinner, you are eventually left with smooth, even pasta that resembles parchment but is actually quite strong and elastic-y.
We wanted to use the ravioli tray that came free with the pasta maker and make some freehand ravioli too. I felt that the freehand approach was far safer than the tray, which we had already had one major disaster with (we didn't flour the tray before placing the bottom layer of pasta over it - it was a pasta massacre).
It is a constant source of irritation when people don't give you all the information. To use a ravioli tray, you must fill each tiny square with flour before you even think about placing the pasta sheet on it. I only know this because I saw – it wasn’t mentioned – someone do this on a cookery show. In fact, it is of paramount importance that you keep your pasta, once rolled out, floured at all times, otherwise it can stick to everything.
Anyway, he used the tray, I used small scone cutters. Mine was the slower but inevitably more successful method of preparing the ravioli. Little tiny flying saucers filled with the hauntingly unusual almond/squash filling, emboldened by the butch sage butter. It is a recipe that is well worth the effort.
225g Plain Flour
¼ teaspoon Salt
½ teaspoon Olive Oil
2 Medium Eggs
4 Medium Egg Yolks
450g cooked Pumpkin or 1 Butternut Squash. Cut into large chunks, scoop out any seeds, drizzle with a little oil and roast at 200c for 45 mins or until tender
1 Egg Yolk
25g grated Parmesan
Grating of Nutmeg
2 crushed Amaretti Biscuits
15g White Breadcrumbs
Salt and Pepper
Sage Butter:
75g Butter
20 Sage Leaves
Lemon Juice
To make the dough for the pasta, mix all the pasta ingredients in a bowl or food processor and blend until they come together into a ball.
Knead the dough on a floured work surface for 10 minutes. Wrap in cling film and leave to rest for 10 - 15 minutes. (Dough can be prepared in advance and left in the refrigerator in cling film. Remove an hour before preparation and allow to come to room temperature.)

Allow the pumpkin or squash to cool enough to handle. Remove the flesh from the shell. In a bowl, use a fork to mash the flesh of the pumpkin/squash adding. Stir in all the remaining filling ingredients and season to taste. Mix well.

By hand, roll the pasta dough to about 10mm thick. Then feed through a floured pasta machine on the largest setting several times folding pasta back on itself before each pass. When dough is smooth and easy to work, adjust setting down a notch and feed through once. Continue until you have reached setting 5.
Place half the pasta sheet on a floured work surface and evenly space spoonfuls of the filling on the sheet. The size and amount is dependent on how large you want your ravioli to be.
Brush water between pockets of filling.
Place the remaining sheet of dough over the top and press firmly around the pockets of filling forcing out as much air as possible.
Cut between the ravioli with a knife, pasta wheel, or a round scone cutter. The quantity you make will be determined by the size of the ravioli.
Cook them for four minutes. Drain and pour into a serving bowl.
For the sage butter, melt the butter in a large frying pan until foaming, throw in the sage and fry for a few seconds. Remove the pan from the heat and add the lemon juice and some salt and pepper to taste.
Pour the sage butter over the ravioli, with some grated parmesan cheese liked.
Serve immediately.

Note: If you have any pasta remaining, you can do as we did. Feed it through the vermicelli cutter on your pasta machine. Boil until al dente and drain. Place pasta on a plate and drizzle with olive oil. Chop a vine tomato into 1cm cubes and put on top. Grind a pinch of sea salt between your fingers over the tomato adding more if you like. Add fresh ground black pepper to taste. Simple and delicious! This makes an appearance in the picture above.


Shaun said...

Freya, love - I'm going to try my hardest to keep Eric from seeing this post. He really wants a pasta maker, but since we are moving to NZ in a couple of months, I don't want to lug yet another kitchen contraption across the Pacific Ocean. I think you did a fabulous job. Amaretti and pumpkin is one of my favourite combinations, too, though my sauce is usually of pinot noir and cream variety (I haven't really acquired a taste for sage - or dill - yet, though I understand that sage is traditionally paired with ravioli with this filling). Eric and I are making osso bucco tonight, and I intend to make a pork loin some time this week...Having a cold snap in the air drives me to the kitchen. I can't wait to hear about what else you are making this week. Take care.

peabody said...

I lvoe these flavors together.

Kathryn said...

Mmmmm! It sounds delicious Freya- was it? I haven't tried this combo in ravioli yet but have seen it in Rick's books and Angela Hartnett made it in a magazine I have; there's also a version in an old Gordon Ramsay book, and in Twelve by Tessa Kiros. Mmm.

By the way, our ravioli tray has worked perfectly so far (touch wood!!!) but no thanks to the instructions. Our Imperia instruction manual, helpfully written in several languages, makes little sense in English in parts. I defy anyone to use it without TV/book/Internet research to complement it... I ended up reading the French version...

FreyaE said...

Shaun, the sage butter adds an unusual savouryness as a foil to the sweet squash and almond. It is a pungent herb so it is an acquired taste. I hope when you move that you'll keep up with your blog!

Peabody, many thanks for stopping by...it is a great and classic combination of flavours, one that we'll be trying again. Incidentally, your blog is great too!

Kathryn, It WAS totally delicious! Really worthwhile if you have a few hours to spare. These ravioli manufacturers - they expect us to be as skilled as Italian Mamas!

Freya x

Carolyn Johnson said...

Hi Freya! I've been meaning to post on your blog and then I saw this ravioli recipe that looks absolutely divine! I've been itching to get a pasta maker so that I can make my own pasta (absolutely love ravioli!) but my bf thinks I've been buying way too many cookery things lately (my latest: pizza peel). He just doesn't understand us foodies! lol :)

Anonymous said...

Aha! Thank you so much for writing this! I tried my ravioli tray for the first time today, and having lost the instructions also didn't flour the tray beforehand. I agree with you about the pasta massacre. I did wonder if it would be easier to make strips and cut them by hand. Mind you it's all still edible :) Just more "pasta clumps with filling in the water in the saucepan" rather than ravioli :-)

I adore the idea of squash and amaretti - thank you!