Pasta Invasion – Butternut Squash Ravioli with Hazelnut Brown Butter Sauce

October 29, 2009 at 4:10 pm Leave a comment

On Friday, M and I headed over to his sister’s house after work to invade her kitchen in the name of pasta.  (By invitation, of course.)  She has a very nice kitchen and a large collection of Kitchen Aid mixer attachments.  The plan was to make Ravioli with Butternut Squash filling and Hazelnut Brown Butter Sauce.  None of us had made fresh pasta before and we were pretty excited about trying it out.

Hand made pasta, especially ravioli, has a certain sort of mystique about it.  It sounds like it is going to be very complicated, you know it will be amazingly delicious, and somehow being able to say you made it yourself gives you tons of points with people who never have (and perhaps also with those who have made it, as they know what is involved).

The truth is, hand made pasta is both amazingly simple and complex enough that you can probably spend a lifetime perfecting it.  Take the pasta dough.  There are three very basic ingredients in the recipe we used – flour, salt, eggs.  That’s it.  Some people add a bit of water to the mix, others argue for a bit of oil for ease of working the dough, you can spice it up with a little color and flavor through adding spinach or tomatoes or a number of other ingredients, and at its most basic it might just be flour and water.  Our recipe called for 2 cups of flour, a teaspoon salt, and 3 eggs.  Getting the pasta just right, well, that is where the lifetime of practice comes in.

When I first moved to Portland I lived over in the Hawthorne district and about five minutes walk from Pasta Works, a dangerous, dangerous store with a lovely cheese counter, lots of specialty items, and fresh pasta and sauces made on site.  Now that I know how easy it is to make fresh pasta I think that an extruder pasta attachment for my Kitchen Aid is in my future.

We started to get out all the ingredients and equipment and suddenly began running into a few complications.  It turns out that M’s sister has the grinder attachment, but not the pasta plates for it, nor the flat roller set.  No problem, we thought, we will just roll it by hand – on to the mixing!  The recipe we had called for everything to be done in a food processor (The New Best Recipe, again).  The food processor turned out to be non-functioning.  Still not daunted by these set backs we went to our stand mixer and decided we could just wing it all.

A side note on timing:

  1. Having a second or third person to help with everything will make things run much smoother, though I think one person could make it work with a bit of finagling.
  2. Prep the squash first, especially if your squash is larger than 2 pounds.  M had bought a gorgeous one from the Farmer’s Market that weighed in at 6.  Needless to say, it took longer to cook.
  3. Toast up your hazelnuts and chop them once the squash is in the oven.
  4. I would start your pasta dough roughly 15 minutes after you put the squash into the oven.  Your dough rest should hopefully coincide with the mixing portion of the filling and doing the brown butter.
  5. Start your water when your squash has about 10 minutes of cook time left.  You can always turn it to low and cover it, keeping it hot until you want to heat it up the rest of the way.  If you turn it down, remember to check on it when you are about to roll out pasta so it is ready to go when you ravioli is available to cook.
  6. After you have pulled the squash let the oven cool down some before you put your plates in to warm.  Not all dishes do well in the oven, so make sure you are gentle with the level of heat they are going into.

Now on to the fun part – the recipes!

Winging It Fresh Pasta

(this is for a double batch)

4 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
6 eggs

Start a stock pot of water at the beginning so that when you need it, it is ready.  You will want to bring it to a gentle boil and add some salt to the water.  You can also prep a low heat oven to warm your plates, as the ravioli will come out in series, not all at once, and they will stay warm better if stored in a warm bowl.

Whisk the dry ingredients together, or just place them into your stand mixer and combine.  Add the eggs.  Mix on the second to lowest setting using your dough hook.  Your total mix time will be roughly fifteen minutes, with an added rest somewhere in the middle for about five minutes, to total a 20 minute time period in the mixer.  The dough will be pretty dry and you will probably want to check on it periodically to make sure it is appropriately mixing.  Ours would occasionally start to turn two chunks next to one another without mixing them and we would have to stop it and stuff them back together.

It is very different from bread dough, so we didn’t get it to window pane, but we did use that method to see that the gluten had been developing and that the dough had some stretch before breaking.  My guess would be that it was half way towards a window pane, if you are someone who does bread and finds the reference helpful.

At this point, you want to remove the bowl from the mixer and cover it tightly with plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out.  The dough should get roughly a 15 minute rest.  You need it to rest at least 10 minutes and if you go over 30 it will become too dry.  This is a good time to prep your sauce so that it is ready to go when your ravioli are done.

Take half of the pasta dough and re-cover the rest in the bowl.  Roll the dough out, trying to get it as thin as possible.  Use the sturdiest surface you have for this, as it takes a lot of rolling and fair bit of force to do by hand.  Try to get your rolling to be as long and rectangular as possible.  Our first roll out was fairly round and we ended up not being able to use a fair bit of the dough.  If you have a manual or mixer attached pasta roller, by all means, use it.  You will be able to get much thinner pasta and get a greater quantity of pasta out of your dough.

Roll fast!  Once rolled out, the dough should not sit for very long.  I believe that you have something like seven minutes before it starts to dry out too much.  If you are doing ravioli with the pasta, this is where you shift over from a straight pasta preparation.  For straight pasta, slice it up.  If you are going for ravioli, you want to slice a long 4 – 5 inch strip out, as many of them as will fit.  You will be folding over the strip and sealing it once you have your filling placed.  Take your filling (see recipe below) and put a rounded teaspoon about an inch from the side.  Leaving approximately an inch between each scoop, place them down the length of the strip of pasta.  Fold it over and use your finger tips to gently press all the pasta together around the fillings.  Use a knife to cut midway between the fillings.

Pop these ravioli into the pot of water (water should be at a gentle boil, so that it doesn’t pop them open).  If you have second person, have one of you prepping the next set of ravioli and rolling the second piece of dough while the other keeps an eye on the ravioli in the pot.  Your cook time will be fairly short.  It is very dependant on the thickness of your pasta.  If you have a pasta roller, it could be as short as 5 to 7 minutes.  If you are hand rolling and got it very thin, perhaps 7 to 10.  If it is a bit thicker, perhaps as much as 12 to 15 minutes.  Our second rolling of dough was significantly thicker and took 12 – 15 minutes.  We have a lot of ravioli missing tiny bits of their corners.  Just pop one out of the pan, slice off a tiny piece, and see how it is.

Depending on how formal you are being, either serve them in succession and give people a second portion later, or divvy up the ravioli in the warmed plates and wait for the rest to be finished.

Top with the Hazelnut Brown Butter Sauce and serve.

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Hazelnut Brown Butter Sauce

(recipe taken from epicurious, listed as being originally from Gourmet magazine, January 1997)

For filling
2-pound butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
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 aged goat cheese, grated (about 2/3)

For Sauce
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped coarse (you can dry toast them in a small skillet over medium low heat for a few minutes prior to chopping)

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

Make filling:
Put squash halves, flesh sides down, 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. Mash squash with a fork until smooth.

While squash is 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. Stir in garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

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

Make sauce:
In skillet cook butter with hazelnuts over moderate heat until butter begins to brown, about 3 minutes, and immediately remove from heat (nuts will continue to cook). Season hazelnut butter with salt and pepper and keep warm, covered.

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