The Artist loves to eat vegetarian meals so I am always on the lookout for recipes I can alter to vegetarian easily. These ravioli make a perfect light appetizer or can be a substantial vegetarian entree. They would make an excellent vegetarian option for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. We sometimes have guests that don’t eat turkey and I hate to relegate them to just eating side dishes and salads. Can you believe Thanksgiving is just two months away? Where has the year gone?
Squashes are one of winter’s most prevalent crops. Full of healthy vitamins and minerals, they are substantial and make excellent side dishes or the foundation for main courses. One of the best aspects of winter squashes is that they can be prepared either sweet or savory. Split them open and clean out the seed and strings, then you can either peel and cube or leave them whole and stuff them. You can drizzle them with olive oil and savory seasonings or brush with butter and sprinkle with brown sugar. Either way your family will love them.
When you think of squash I’ll bet you have trouble getting much further down the list than pumpkins and butternut squash. A less well-known one is the acorn squash, one of the smaller ones, not surprisingly, shaped like a large acorn. Look for dark green ones that are heavy for their size. All squashes have an extremely hard rind that is difficult to cut through and that turns many people off. But I’ve got a tip for you to make it much easier to handle! Microwave it first! (See Kitchen Skill below for details.)
Like pumpkins, all winter squashes have a tough rind and delicately flavored flesh. Their centers are hollow with seeds and strings that have to be removed before cooking. This is much easier to do with a little sugar pumpkin than your typical huge Jack O’ Lantern! Save the seeds because they are tasty when you season and bake them. It’s like a reward for the hard work of cleaning out the pumpkin for Halloween!
Martha’s recipe calls for the use of pasta sheets. While widely used in professional kitchens (they are amazing for lasagna!) they are not readily available in many areas of the country. Specialty pasta shops, delis, and similar stores may carry them. There is another option that is much easier to find and I think are easier to work with, wonton wrappers. Usually found near the fresh produce, they come in a variety of sizes and shapes, but are usually either square or circular. If you want a decorative edge, buy the square ones and use a fluted pastry wheel to cut them into circles or other shapes.
You probably have made brown butter before, but most people do it by mistake. This time you will do it on purpose :o) You want to use a light colored pan so that you can see the color as it changes. Start on medium-low and increase heat slowly as needed. Don’t walk away from the stove because it can go from yellow to burned in a flash.
One thing I learned from chefs was to utilize ingredients used in a dish for the garnish. For this dish, you use sage to flavor the butter sauce, so let’s use sage to garnish the plates. One of the easiest ways to do this is to fry the sage leaves until crispy. They pack a huge wallop of flavor and add a wonderful crunch to otherwise soft foods. In addition to these, I also like to add a few pine nuts or toasted pumpkin seeds.
I love these ravioli and they are the perfect way to celebrate the autumn harvest. But if you use canned pumpkin or roasted sweet potatoes, you can serve them all year long. With Halloween a couple of weeks away and Thanksgiving right around the corner, put these on your menu plan. They are easy to make, vegetarian, healthy, delicious and beautiful for even the fanciest parties. I would say they are absolutely perfect for any Festive Friday!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
To keep the pumpkin from rolling around while you are cutting it, slice a small section off the rind so it has a flat surface on the “bottom” to keep it steady. Do this with any foods that don’t have a natural flat surface.
Kitchen Skill: How to Cut Hard Pumpkins and Squashes
To slightly soften the squash so it is easier to handle, make some holes in the side with a sharp knife (you can consider it a perforated line to cut along later) so that the steam can escape. Place in the microwave and heat on high for 3 minutes. Remove from the microwave and let stand a few minutes. You can now halve it easily with a very sharp, long knife.
- 1 (3 lb) sugar pumpkin or butternut squash or 1-1/2 cups plain pumpkin puree
- 4 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp light-brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup Locatelli or grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
- 3 large or 6 small amaretti cookies, crushed
- 2 tbsp ricotta cheese
- 1 tsp chopped shallots
- Pinch of nutmeg
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1-1/2 lb store-bought fresh pasta sheets or wonton wrappers
- 1 tbsp semolina flour
- Sage Butter Sauce
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
- 1 tbsp freshly chopped sage leaves
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Optional Toppings
- Freshly grated Locatelli, Parmesan or Romano cheese
- Fried sage leaves
- Lightly toasted pine nuts or pumpkin seeds
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Prepare Pumpkin: On a work surface, cut pumpkin in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds; discard. Drizzle olive oil evenly over insides of pumpkin halves; rub 1/2 tsp brown sugar into each. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast, cut-side down, until pumpkin is easily pierced with a paring knife, about 1 hour. Let cool.
- Shortcut: Use canned pure pumpkin puree, NOT pumpkin pie filling which is sweetened and pre-seasoned.
- To toast the pumpkin seeds, clean off all the pulp and strings, rinse well and pat dry with paper towels. Toss with a little olive oil and sprinkle lightly with any seasoning you like. You might add garlic, cayenne, taco seasoning, onion powder, etc. Spread out on a parchment-covered baking sheet and roast at 350°F for 3 to 5 minutes until they just start to color and smell toasted. Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
- Make Filling: When cool enough to handle, scoop out flesh with a spoon. You'll need 1-1/2 cups of puree. Transfer flesh or puree to a clean kitchen towel or cheesecloth; wring excess liquid into a bowl. Place squash flesh in the bowl of a food processor, along with egg, Locatelli, amaretti, ricotta, shallot, and a pinch of nutmeg; process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
- Make Ravioli: Lay 1 pasta sheet on work surface. Place 1 tbsp filling every 3 inches. Brush water around filling. Place another sheet of pasta on top, pressing around each mound of filling to seal. Using a fluted pastry wheel, cut each ravioli into a 3-by-3-inch square. Repeat with remaining pasta sheets and filling.
- Alternately, if you are using wonton wrappers, place about 1 tsp of filling on one wrapper, moisten the edges with water, top with a second wrapper and press out air around filling and sealing edges.
- Transfer ravioli to a parchment-lined baking sheet sprinkled with semolina; freeze for at least 30 minutes.
- Fry Sage Leaves: Rinse sage leaves and pat dry with paper towels. Remove stems and discard. In a saucepan, heat 2 tbsp butter over medium-high heat until it bubbles and begins to foam. Add the leaves to the pan and cook 15 to 30 seconds or until crisp. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt if desired. Continue with remaining sage leaves, making 3 to 5 per serving.
- Make Butter Sauce: In a large saute pan, melt butter over high heat. Add sage; cook until butter begins to brown and sizzle, about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat; whisk in balsamic. Keep warm over very low heat. (You can also serve the butter sauce plain and drizzle the balsamic over the top of the ravioli just before serving.)
- Cook Ravioli: Bring a large pot of water to a boil; season well with salt. Add ravioli; cook until it just floats, 3 to 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or spider, transfer ravioli to pan with butter sauce, tossing to combine. Serve immediately with cheese and a few fried sage leaves, if desired. Sprinkle the pine nuts over the top if you want a little textural interest.
- Yield: 4 to 6 servings.