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Entries in Ravioli (2)


Let's Play Squash

Here I go again, revising traditional Italian dishes, making them healthier and hopefully making you wealthier and wise in the process. How? With squash, that's how.

Today's Recipe Revise focuses on ravioli. I've made my own! Imagine that. Acutally, you don't have to imagine it because I'm going to tell you how I did it. I made this particular pasta dough with whole wheat flour, so you could get some good-for-you grains in your diet. Yeah, you need them.

For the "stuffing," I used butternut squash and – get this – NO cheese. I promise, it's still delicious. Topped with a mix of roasted delicata and butternut squashes, this dish is perfectly balanced. The whole wheat pasta has a nutty taste (try it with hazelnut flour if you're extra-industrious) and the squashes are flavorful and meaty. Sage and some grated Parmeggiano Reggiano cheese give this dish extra life. So, let's make it happen.

First the pasta:

Makes about 30 1" diameter ravioli

What You Need:
100 grams all purpose flour
100 grams whole wheat flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 egg white for sealing the ravioli 

What You Do:

Measure out your flours using a scale - this is the only way to determine if you have the proper amount. After you've measured, mix them up together in a bowl, so that the all-purpose and the whole wheat are incorporated.

Pour onto a clean surface. I use my counter top, but if you'd like to use a large cutting board, that's fine as well.

Make a well or hole in the center of the flour and pour your beaten eggs in there. The sides of the well will hold them in place.

Using a fork or two of your fingers, start incorporating the flour into the eggs, slowly. Once all the dough is added, you will have a ball of egg and flour. This is a sticky process - don't worry, you're doing it right!

Knead this ball of dough with your hands for about ten minutes. The dough should start to spring back when poked with your finger. This means the gluten in the flour is starting to work and is giving the dough strength. This is good! Let the dough rest for 30 minutes. 

After the dough has enjoyed a disco nap, feed the dough into your pasta machine between the rollers at its widest setting. Crank that bad boy through at the widest setting THREE times, folding the dough onto itself in thirds after each pass. Then, start narrowing the settings on the rollers until the dough gets very thin. At the final pass, you should have a very thin sheet of pasta.

Place this on a cutting board and cut out 1 - 1 1/2" squares or circles. I used a cookie cutter for mine, but you can use one of those fancy-pants ravioli cutters or just use a dang knife. Keep it simple people. The fewer appliances you have, the less frequently they get caught in your drawers leaving you cursing the day you bought a can opener. Anyhoo! For more detailed instructions, you can check out a video on pasta making by yours truly here.

For the filling:

What You Need:
1/2 large butternut squash, peeled, cubed and roasted or boiled until it is soft.
1/4 almond milk
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon sea salt 
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper 

What To Do:

Take your roasted b'nut and place it in a blender or food processor. Add the other ingredients and blend until smooth.

Reserve it in an air tight container, or start filling your ravioli with it immediately. You can even store it in the freezer for weeks if you like!

Once you have cut out your ravioli squares or circles, take a teaspoon and place small dollops of the squash filling onto the squares. Don't forget to leave half the squares filling-less, as these will be the tops.

Brush the outer rim of the ravioli square with egg white and top with another (unfilled) square. Press the top layer of pasta into the bottom with a fork, sealing it.

Repeat this for all the ravioli.

At this point, you can either freeze them for later use, or start boiling a pot of water to eat immediately. I vote for the second option, but if you must reserve them for later, place small squares of parchment or wax paper between the ravioli so they don't freeze together and create a giant squash chunk. Giant squash chunk is just not as cool as separated ravioli, trust me.

Boil a large pot of water, and once the water is boiling, salt the water. Don't be shy about salting it either. Go for it!

Plop in the ravioli. Even if they were frozen, they will only require about 3 minutes of cooking. They should float up to the top of the water when they are done.

For the topping:

What You Need:

1/2 butternut squash, peeled and cubed into very tiny cubes (use the other half from the filing!)
1 or 2 delicata squash, cut in half with the seeds removed and sliced so you have half-moon slices. You don't have to worry about peeling the delicata.
Fresh sage - a LOT of it. Chop it up coarsely
Fresh rosemary, chopped. Just a sprinkle 
Salt and pepper - to taste
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil 

What To Do:

Heat your oven to 350 degrees.

Place your chopped squash on a baking sheet and sprinkle with the herbs, salt and pepper and olive oil. Using your hands, mix it all up.

Place it in the oven and roast for about 30 minutes, until the squashes are soft to the touch.

Plating It Up:

Place some ravioli in a bowl, top with the roasted veggies, and some Parmeggiano Reggiano cheese. 

Optional Bonus Points: Fry sage leaves in olive oil until they are crispy. Place on top of your finished dish. It'll be extra fabulous.




Borgatti's Ravioli with Elana's Special Vodka Sauce

There are two parts to this story:

Part the first: A review of our last stop in our Mega-Bronx weekend, the handmade pasta shop, Borgatti's.

Part the second: A treatise on the importance of a well-made Vodka Sauce and instructions in that regard (read: recipe).

Full to the brim with Zero Otto Nove's pizza and laden like expert Sherpas with cheese-stuffed breads, Italian wines, pastries and a roll or three of perfect mozzarella, the three of us (Marmo, John and I) waltzed up to Borgatti's to peruse the offerings:

This examination of the above menu was a bit of a charade, because we were there for one thing and one thing only: LARGE RAVIOLI. Handmade and stuffed to Thanksgiving turkey style proportions with copious amounts of fresh ricotta cheese.

We shuffled in (careful to protect our bags of bounty we had accumulated from slamming doors, wayward customers and even the BVM):

Once inside, we were invited to step to the left of the store by way of some helpful indicators:

And were also offered some spiritual reading material on the large refrigerator while we waited for our order (3 boxes of large ravioli, please!):

A close-up:

Walking out, I asked John what I should make with these gargantuan pillows of cheesiness.

"It's for the blog," I said, "It should be good....something we haven't done before...."

"Make a Vodka Sauce," he responded immediately.

Every now and again I think John is a genius. Other times that I've had this feeling have included this past Groundhog Day when he suggested we imbibe too many beers and go visit Punxsutawney Phil; and our infamous negotiations with a Vespa Sales rep in which John requested an in-dashboard cannoli dispenser.

This Vodka Sauce suggestion was right on. We've talked about it before, naming our local New Jersey Steakhouse Sammy's as our current favorite (John even suggested their Pasta with Vodka Sauce would be part of his last meal).

What's so great about Vodka Sauce? If you don't know, then you've never had a good one before. Chunks of tangy tomatoes are combined with heat from red pepper flakes, a heavy cream flair for thickness and smoothness and a generous cheese-glorious Parmesan infusion. And what role does the Vodka play? Well, folks, it's "the straw that stirs the drink". It somehow magnifies the heat from the pepper and complements the cream-cheesiness all the while adding a flavor of its own...and perhaps a feeling too. A feeling that makes you think, "Hey, maybe...just maybe I should DRINK this sauce."

You should want to drink it.

The following is MY own recipe for Vodka Sauce that You Will Want to Drink.

The dough-to-cheese proportions in a Borgatti ravioli are a perfect dance of harmony. And in old-school Italian grandma style, they don't skimp on portion size. Or flavor.

With this sauce placed atop Borgatti's large ravioli, this is a meal of which you can be proud. You can raise a flag and salute it with your cheeks stuffed chipmunk-style full of thick and fresh pasta dough.

What You Need:

Olive oil
1 large shallot
5 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/3 cup vodka
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more if you like it hot, hot hot!)
1 small basket cherry tomatoes
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
16 ounce can peeled tomatoes
4-5 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmeggiano Reggiano (more for the table)
Fresh Italian Parsley, chopped (as much as you want)

What To Do:

First, you need to prepare the roasted tomatoes.

Heat up your oven (or your toaster oven!) to 350 degrees.

Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with tin foil.

Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and place them in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil (about 2 tablespoons) and sprinkle with a generous pinch of kosher salt.

Mix all of this around with your hands so that all the tomatoes are evenly coated with oil and salt.

Spread the tomatoes onto your prepared baking sheet and place them in the oven for about 20 minutes. The tomatoes will bubble and turn slightly brown. This is just as it should be. Remove them from the oven and let them cool.

Once they have cooled, place the roasted tomatoes in your food processor and puree them.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot. I used a cast iron pot, because everything gets nice and toasty in there. Anything non-stick won't work as well. It'll work....just not as well.

Chop the shallot and add it to the pot. Stir it around and turn the heat to medium-low so that it doesn't burn.

Add the freshly chopped basil and the red pepper flakes. Gently crush the red pepper flakes with your fingers as you add them to the pot. This releases the heat in the flakes.

Cook this untll the shallots have softened, about 5 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and add the vodka. Always add alcohol away from the heat. Alcohol is flammable, and generally (at least in my kitchen) I like to avoid spontaneous human combustion. Or spontaneous dish towel get the idea – AWAY from the heat!

Once the vodka has been added, return the pot to the stove and let this whole mixture simmer and reduce until you have about half the volume that you started with.

Add the pureed roasted tomatoes and the whole peeled tomatoes. Break apart the whole peeled tomatoes with a wooden spoon, so they are in chunks. Add a pinch of salt (to taste) and some freshly ground pepper.

Bring the mixture to a simmer. At this point you can give it a taste and see if you would like to add more salt, pepper or red pepper flakes. You can definitely add as much basil as you like!

Now add the heavy cream. It's best to add the cream one tablespoon at a time, as a little heavy cream goes a long way. You want the sauce to be a red-orange color. Not pink.

Remove the pot of sauce from the heat again and add in your grated Parmeggiano Reggiano cheese. The sauce is hot, so it will melt the cheese. Swirl it around to make sure all the cheese is incorporated.

And violá! You are done.

Except for your ravioli....

So, boil a quart of water per 4 ravioli. Once the water has reached a rolling boil, add a generous pinch of sea salt, and plop in your ginormous ravioli. Allow them to cook for about 4 minutes.

Drain, top with vodka sauce and freshly chopped Italian parsley. Make sure there's more grated Parm hanging around...