Sunday, March 4, 2012

Recipe: Winter Ravioli with Onion Walnut Sage Sauce

All gods are homemade, and it is we who pull their strings, and so, give them the power to pull ours. – Aldous Huxley 

Sometimes you just need a butter-based pasta sauce. Sometimes...
Homemade ravioli are easy to make. Note I didn't say they're “quick and easy”… That’s because they’re not quick. Or at least these one’s aren’t. Most of it's due to roasting the filling so don't worry.

This is the pasta dough. Kneading will bring it together into a
smooth ball. Depending on the moisture content in your flour
you may need to add water. It needs to be quite stiff, not "soft."
Cooking fresh pasta IS quick, though – incredibly so. It only takes 3 minutes for fresh linguine and spaghetti and not much more for these ravioli. But, as with most things delicious, making them takes a little time, care and love.

Homemade ravioli are incredibly good. You can stuff them with nearly any mixture and when you add in myriad sauces the flavour combinations are quite vast. Some of my favourites are these, lobster, mushrooms and chicken.

Just remember to taste your filling. It is the star of the show. If it's not right, you've wasted a lot of time. This one has a sage-onion-walnut-butter sauce, just to gild the lily. It works wonderfully with the squash. If you don't know, fried sage is amazing.

I have made both good and bad pasta dough before. Everybody has. This one definitely falls into the former category. I was somewhere where I couldn't get an internet connection so with no references I had to make this one up. That was a good thing. It was extremely elastic after resting and took to rolling like a duck to water. It was a dream to work with. I believe this was the best pasta dough I’ve made to date, and I’ve made quite a lot.

Homemade ravioli do take some time to accomplish, but it’s not constant work. The time given includes 2 hours of roasting the squash. Hands on time I would say is probably 1 hour.

I have to say there’s not much that can beat the “wow” factor of bringing any fresh homemade pasta to the table – which is unusual since pasta is actually a very basic, homey dish in Italy. The “wow” increases when it’s homemade ravioli.

You don't have to cook all of them at once. They freeze exceedingly well. In fact, I made these for my mother and we only ate 10, so I have 26 waiting in my freezer for at least another meal!

Winter Ravioli with Onion Walnut Sage Sauce
Total time, including roasting squash: about 3 hours  |  Serves 6
The filling. Taste it to make sure the seasoning is right.
1 cup roasted winter squash, mashed
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
ravioli pasta:
1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp water (or more)
sauce for 6:
1 medium sweet onion, sliced very thin
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chopped fresh sage leaves
1/2 cup butter

You get four sheets this size from the dough.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut a buttercup squash (or other winter squash) in half and remove the seeds. Place in an oven proof dish and roast for 2 hours. That’s twice as long as usual, but you need to dry out the flesh as much as possible. If it begins to brown too much remove before the 2 hours. Scoop out 1 cup of the flesh and mash.

Add the ricotta, egg, bread crumbs, nutmeg, salt and pepper to the mashed squash. Mix well and refrigerate until ready to use. The filling should hold its shape on a spoon.

Place the flour and salt in a bowl and mix. Make a well in the centre and add the eggs, oil and water. Break up the eggs with a fork and slowly begin to incorporate the flour into the eggs by whisking with the fork. 

When incorporated as much as possible with the fork, switch to your hands and knead until the dough comes together. Depending on the moisture content in your flour you may need to add a little more water. The dough should be a little difficult to knead, but will hold together. It will tell you.

Continue to knead the dough for an additional 5-10 minutes to develop the gluten. Place in plastic wrap and cover with a bowl on the counter for 30 minutes to rest. After the resting period the dough will have become slightly smoother and more elastic.

Press the sheets together and seal well.
Divide the dough in four equal pieces. Keep the remaining dough wrapped as you work. Starting at the widest setting of your pasta roller, roll each piece into a sheet of pasta about 30” long by the width of the pasta roller. Finish on the second thinnest setting. The first is too thin.

As you work cover the sheets with a towel or piece of plastic wrap. You don’t want them to dry out. I recommend rolling two sheets, filling, and then rolling the second two pieces.

36 ravioli, enough for 6, unless you're hungry!
Lay one sheet out and place 1 heaped teaspoon of filling on the dough for each ravioli. You should be able to get 18 ravioli from each pair of sheets. Wet all the exposed pasta dough around the filling on the bottom sheet with water. This will help seal the top sheet to the bottom.

Lay a second sheet of pasta over the first and press them together around the filling. Press well and try your best to remove any inevitable air pockets you may have. DO NOT puncture holes to remove any air. The filling must be sealed inside or water will enter when cooking. Some air is OK, just keep it to a minimum.

Trim all the outer edges. Then cut down the length and across between the filling to make rectangular ravioli. Pick up each ravioli and re-seal the edges with your fingers. Do this  job well. You don’t want them to break apart or leak when cooking.

This is half of a sauce recipe.
The ravioli don’t have to be perfectly square. That’s part of the handmade charm. Let air dry for at least 30 minutes. The pasta will begin to get stiff and “leathery.”

Just before cooking, melt the butter in a saucepan on medium. Slice the onion very thinly and add to the butter. Stir in the walnuts. let the onion cook until softened. It may begin to disintegrate. That’s OK. Add the sage for the last few minutes. keep warm.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil with some salt. Once it reaches a rolling boil, add the ravioli. Bring the water back to a boil and let boil for 3-5 minutes. The ravioli will float to the top. 

Drain the pasta. Serve 6 ravioli per plate with the sauce drizzled on top. As a main course you may want to serve a couple more per plate. Delicious…


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