Monday, November 22, 2010

Butternut, bacon and white bean ravioli

It's Autumn, which makes me feel like it's time for some kind of comfort food.  Plus I've seen butternut squash all over the place and it's as though it's calling to me so that's the impetus for this dish.  There are tons of options on what to put in the middle - blanched spinach with sausage and ricotta comes to mine - or a veggie mix perhaps?  If you're using fresh pasta (below) you'll want to make sure that your filling is pre-cooked, as the actual boiling time of the ravioli is not long enough to cook fillings through.

Stuff you'll need:

  • 2 - 3 cups of butternut squash,  roasted (instructions below) and smashed
  • 5 Spice powder
  • Olive oil
  • One clove of garlic - diced up
  • sweet onion diced into small bits (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons of heavy cream (give or take)
  • 3 tablespoons of water (give or take)
  • 1/2 cup of bacon - diced (up to a cup if you, like me, are a bacon lover...)
  • 1/2 cup of white beans
  • 4 cups semolina flour + enough to dust surfaces and coat finished ravioli
  • 2 cup of water
  • 1 (or 2 - let's be honest butter is awesome...) stick of butter or 4oz of home made butter
  • Handful of fresh sage (chopped)

There are a lot of steps to this but the pay off is sooo worth it and none of the steps is difficult - ready?

Heat the oven to 400.

Starting with the squash - peel and cut into 1 to 2 inch chunks, put it in a bowl and toss with a splash of olive oil and 5 spice powder to coat.  Lay the chunks of seasoned squash in a roasting pan with high sides, spread the squash out to an even layer (I used my silpat which doesn't actually fit in the pan, but makes for super easy clean up, parchment would help as an alternative - the squash is high in sugar and will stick like crazy to your cookwear when it starts to caramelize in the oven)

Put the diced squash into the oven and roast for about 40 to 50 min till tender.  Pull the squash out, and let it cool for a couple min. then using a fork make a nice mash of the squash.  Set it aside.

Find a pan that is large enough for the squash, beans and bacon combined - I used a saute pan.  Drop the diced bacon and stir while cooking - you're going for softened and caramelized, but not crunchy -  you don't want crunchy, crunchy bits inside of ravioli can be unsettling...

Add the garlic (and onions if you're using them), and continue to stir as they cook, letting them caramelize and become translucent. Turn off the heat, and set aside to let the temp come down a bit.  We'll get back to this in a little bit when it's cooled off.

We're going to take a second to attend to the pasta here.  In a large mixing bowl, add one cup of water to two cups of semolina flour - stir well to incorporate, it should result in a firm if slightly sticky dough. Turn the dough out onto a well floured counter and knead till you have a smooth ball.  Cover with plastic wrap, making sure the wrap touches the surface of the dough and place in the refrigerator for 30 min.  The glutens have to have time to do their thing in order to ensure that you have pasta that cooks to a nice al dente rather than dissolve when they hit the water.

Now, back to the filling.  Add canned white beans to the bacon/onion mix, and stir, then fold in the butternut (folding will keep the beans intact) and add the cream bit by bit - you want to get a paste like consistency without annihilating the beans.

Transfer the filling mix to a covered container and place in the refrigerator for the time being, and back to the noodles.

Retrieve your pasta dough, and turn out onto a well floured surface.  My kitchen space is limited so I had to break my pasta dough into 3 portions.  Roll the pasta out to thin sheets, but not so thin that you can see through or that light comes through, add more flour to the rolling usrface as you need it to prevent the pasta from sticking.

You have a couple of method options here, you can put dollops of filling on one side, fold in half, seal and cut or you can roll a second sheet, put dollops of filling on one side, seal and cover and cut random shapes, or you can do what I did - make square (ish) ravioli.  I'll explain what I did, but have fun with this - there are no rules!  the imperfections are what make the ravioli a rustic home made look.

I cut the pasta into two fat strips and put spoonfuls of filling evenly spaced on one of the two.  Then brush the edges and in between the filling portions with an egg wash (one egg beaten with water added)  like this;
Try to push out as much air as possible around the filling as you seal the ravioli, and be careful not to tear the pasta. Press the edges to seal the filling in - you could actually use cookie cutters to seal the pasta and make fun shapes as well, or the tines of a fork to make fancy crimps around the edge.  You should wind up with your variation of something like this;
You'll want to set the ravioli aside to dry for about an hour before cooking, which will help give it a nice final texture.

To serve the ravioli;

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil -you want to make sure you have enough space in the pot for the raviolis to move about so they don't stick together.  Add the ravioli carefully - no splashing - and allow them to cook for about 5 minutes.  

In a separate pan, melt down a stick or two of butter - add the sage and let it brew over medium heat while the pasta cooks - the butter should start to brown just a bit, and you'll smell the sage in the butter.  When the ravioli is just about done, remove them one at a time from the pot and slide them into the melted butter - be careful, it'll sizzle up a bit.  Slide the ravioli around a bit to coat them, then plate and serve em up!
I was so hungry I neglected to take a proper photo of the final dish but here's a poorly lit camera phone snapshot so you can get an idea of what you're going to get;

Sprinkle a little bit of Parmesan and a touch of sea salt on top for a nice contrast to the sweet filling, and voila you have  your home made ravioli!!


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