My first go at pasta was no success. The year was 2011. Gaddafi was dead, Casey Anthony was acquitted, Occupy Wall Street was on the wane. Winter had fallen upon the bluegrass and the time seemed ripe for a new culinary jaunt. On the docket was a little ravioli number, filled with butternut squash and nutmeg. I don’t remember where the recipe came from, but I know that it was my wife who found it, which means I blame her for the resulting failure. The pasta noodles didn’t call for eggs, and were made only with wheat flour and water. The butternut squash, which was certainly appropriate for Winter, was insipid and boring. We spent an entire snowy afternoon roasting the butternut, mixing and rolling the pasta, and though we were left with a table of petite and soundly engineered marvels, we sat silently at the table, scratching our heads and wondering where we went wrong. It’s been three years since I have returned to ravioli. I came back to it with fresh eyes, swift hands, and a peaceful heart.
Truth be told, when I recently decided to make a pumpkin ravioli, I hadn’t even considered my previous failure.Instead, I was at the market, eyeing the last of the pumpkins and thinking of ways to put one more to use. Initially, I was thinking about a spicy pumpkin curry with cranberries, toasted cashews, and coconut milk. I was thinking about serving it over a swath of clove- and cumin-scented quinoa studded with bright green peas. That happened. And it was delicious. But there was still a great heap of tender roasted pumpkin in the fridge. What to do?
Make pasta, of course. Chop up some fresh sage, caramelize a handful of chopped onion and garlic, and mix it with the roasted pumpkin and grated bianco sardo cheese.
Pumpkin Sage Ravioli (serves 4)
fresh pasta (here’s the recipe)
2 cups roasted, pureed pumpkin
1/2 diced yellow onion
5 tbsp chopped fresh sage
3 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 lb Bianco Sardo cheese (any sharp, semi-hard cheese that grates well would work for this)
Cut into the pumpkin and remove the pulp and seeds. Cut the flesh into quarters. Oil a parchment-lined sheet tray and roast the pumpkin for an hour in a 400 degree oven, or until it is tender. If you’re making your own fresh pasta, now would be the time to do it. Once cooked, let the pumpkin cool in the fridge. When cool, remove the outer skin and gently mash the roasted flesh. Meanwhile, pour a good glug of olive oil into a pan on medium-low heat. Throw in the diced onion and garlic and cook until soft and slightly bronzed. It’s important when caramelizing to reduce the heat as more of the sugars are drawn out of the onion. In the last two minutes of cooking, add 4 tbsps of chopped fresh sage, the nutmeg, and the salt.
Add the onion-garlic-sage mixture and the grated Bianco Sardo to the pumpkin mixture. Mix well. Cut the past dough in two. On a floured work surface, roll out one round of pasta as thinly as is physically possible. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I bear down on the pasta with my full weight using the rolling pin to flatten it out. If you are so fortunate as to own a pasta machine, you know what do to here. You should come out with a very large rectangle. Cut the pasta into 1 1/2 inch strips.
Place 1/2 tbsp portions of the pumpkin mixture onto one strip of the pasta. Be sure to leave enough space between each portion so that each ravioli can be crimped. Now place another strip of pasta on top of the first one, so that the pumpkin mixture is now covered. With a sharp knife, separate the ravioli and crimp them with a fork to close. It’s important to leave only enough dough on the outside edges to hold the pumpkin on the inside. Repeat the process with the remaining strips of pasta. Do not worry if you find in the end that you’re left with irregularly-shaped scraps of pasta and a few spoonfuls of the pumpkin mixture. Simply boil the scraps and spoon the heated pumpkin mixture over it with a bit of butter.
When the ravioli have been shaped, heat a large pot of water to just under boiling temperature. Season the water with a generous grasp of salt. When the water is just about to boil, pour in the ravioli and cook for 4 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a wide pan on medium heat with butter and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. When done, drain the pasta and give it a quick minute or two to cook in the butter and black pepper. Serve with a little more grated cheese, more fresh chopped sage, and a couple drops of champagne vinegar.