Saturday, September 28, 2013

Butternut Squash, Sage, and Ricotta Ravioli with Hazelnut Brown-Butter & Brussels Sprout Leaves

 

Butternut squash ravioli has been a trendy item at fine dining establishments the past few years. I’ve wanted to try my hand at it for awhile now so when our friend Michael asked me to teach him how to make ravioli from scratch (we covered how to make fettuccine last month) I thought it was the perfect opportunity to perfect butternut squash ravioli.

 

I started with a recipe I found online for the filling, refined it (changed the cheese it calls for, added roasted Brussels sprout leaves) and used Marcella Hazan’s recipe for the ravioli dough. From start to finish this dinner is a time consuming process (multiple hours) but well worth it. Make it for someone special who will appreciate your hard work.

Ingredients

For ravioli

  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 large eggs

For filling

  • 2 pounds butternut squash*
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground sage
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 ounces ricotta cheese

For sauce

 

*You can use either 2 pounds of whole, uncooked squash for this recipe or 1 and 3/4 pounds of peeled, frozen, diced, raw squash from your grocer’s freezer.

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425°F and lightly grease a baking sheet.

Make ravioli dough:

Dump the flour onto a clean work surface (I use my kitchen counter) and make a well in the center. Crack the eggs and pour them into the well. The flour should keep the eggs from running. Scramble the eggs with a fork, then using clean hands, draw the flour over and into the egg mixture, a little at a time, incorporating as much flour as you need to make the dough come together. Using this method allows us to leave some of the flour out or add it all in depending on the humidity in our kitchen and the bulk of the egg so that we don’t create too dry a dough. Once the dough comes together (should not be overly sticky; a little less sticky than pizza dough) you can begin to knead it – either by hand or using the dough hook in your stand mixer – until it’s smooth and satiny (at least 8 minutes if kneading by hand). This step is crucial; if you underknead the dough it will not survive its passage through your pasta machine. Once the dough is ready, form it into a disc or ball and wrap it in saran wrap and place it in the fridge to rest.

Make filling:
For whole squash, slice and seed it before putting the squash halves, flesh sides down on a baking sheet and roast in middle of oven 30 minutes, or until flesh is very tender. When squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out flesh into a bowl and discard skin. For frozen squash, steam until tender and then pour into a bowl. Mash squash with a fork until smooth.

While squash is steaming or roasting, in a skillet cook onion and sage in butter with salt and pepper to taste over moderate heat, stirring, 5 minutes, or until onion is golden brown. Deglaze with white wine as needed. Stir in garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

Cool onion mixture slightly and add to squash. Add ricotta cheese and stir to combine well.

Make and stuff ravioli:

Take the pasta out of the fridge and on a lightly floured surface, cut the dough into 10 pieces. Working one piece at a time, shape each piece into a  rectangle and pass it through your pasta machine on the widest setting. Fold dough in half, turn it 90 degrees and pass it through again, this time on the next widest setting. Now pass the dough (without any more folding) through the next widest setting and repeat with the narrower settings until you’ve gotten through the next to narrowest setting on your machine.

Put rolled out rectangle on a lightly floured surface, and evenly space tablespoon size mounds of filling along the long bottom edge of the rectangle, leaving a half an inch space between the mounds and leaving a quarter inch space between the long bottom edge of the dough and the filling. Fold the top half of the dough over the filling, pressing the long top edge against the long bottom edge to form a seam. Using a ravioli cutter, cut along the bottom edge of the dough just above the seam to seal the dough and make a pretty cut edge. Do this as well for the sides of the dough and also between the mounds. You now have a 3 edged ravioli and you can also run the ravioli cutter along the top edge to make it 4 edged ravioli. Set aside the dough scraps and at the end of rolling out all of the dough you may have enough scraps to combine and roll out one more rectangle.

Transfer ravioli to a dry kitchen towel. Make more ravioli with remaining wrappers and filling in same manner, transferring as formed to towel and turning occasionally to dry slightly.

Make brown butter and Brussels sprouts:

Cut the base off a handful of Brussels sprouts so that you are easily able to peel apart the leaves. Peel and discard the outer, frayed leaves. Peel the inner leaves and toss lightly in a bowl with olive oil. Roast the leaves on a cookie sheet at 375 F for approx 5-10 minutes or just until the leaves begin to deepen in flavor.  In skillet cook butter with hazelnuts and fresh sage leaves over moderate heat until butter begins to brown and leaves crisp, about 2 minutes, and immediately remove from heat (nuts will continue to cook). Mix in Brussels sprout leaves. Season hazelnut butter with salt and pepper and keep warm, covered.

Cook ravioli:

In a large stockpot bring salted water to a boil for ravioli.

Cook ravioli in batches in gently boiling water 6 minutes, or until they rise to surface and are tender (do not let water boil vigorously once ravioli have been added or the ravioli make break apart). Carefully transfer ravioli as cooked with a slotted spoon to a large shallow baking pan and add enough cooking water to reach 1/2 inch up side of pan. Keep ravioli warm, covered.

Transfer ravioli with a slotted spoon (letting excess cooking liquid drip off) to plates and top with hazelnut brown-butter sauce.

Note that this recipe will vary in its pasta dough yield based on humidity and how thick you roll out your dough. You may find you need to actually double the brown butter sauce if you’ve rolled out a significant amount of ravioli. It’s all about your preference, so don’t be afraid to experiment. You will almost always have filling left over, which is excellent the next day warmed up and served alongside roasted pork.

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