Butternut Squash Ravioli

>Hello faithful readers. All seven of you. I’m sorry I’ve been gone for so long. I worked for around 50 hours this week in my office and did some work from home as well. One of my largest projects of the year is due Monday and the other person working on it is on vacation. Awesome.  Needless to say it’s been a little hectic at work and when I get home I make dinner and then, more or less, pass out on the sofa. I promise to do better this week. 🙂

Some number of days ago (I have no idea anymore when I made this. Maybe a week ago? Two weeks? I dunno.) I used half of a large butternut squash to make butternut squash ravioli. I’ve made ravioli lots of times with my family, using a noodle-making machine (hand crank style) and ravioli filling trays. Unfortunately I have none of those things at my disposal so when I make noodles and dough I have to do it the old fashioned way. Kneading by handing, rolling out with a rolling pin, cutting, filling and sealing each ravioli by hand. Obviously this is pretty labor intensive so if you’re going to make ravioli I suggest making the rest of the meal really, really easy. On the night we had this I made a Caprese salad with tomatoes, basil, red onion, mozzarella, olive oil, garlic and pepper. It was simple but had strong flavor. It balanced nicely with the ravioli which I topped with a butter/brown sugar sauce. Yum.

Cleaning a butternut squash can be a pain in the backside. The shape of the squash can make it really difficult to use a potato peeler. I always buy a squash that’s really long and straight with a small rounded bottom. I also usually make Senor peel it but since he has class pretty much every night, I was on my own. The nice thing about ravioli is that they’re super filling and you really don’t need very much ‘stuff’ to stuff in them. I used a tiny amount of squash and it was still plenty for us to have six giant raviolis each. I chopped the rest of the squash into slices and put in the freezer for later use in some risotto.

Recently my mom got a new fancy food processor thingy and gave me her handy, slightly smaller one. It’s giant compared to my old one though which was just big enough to make a pesto sauce for two people. This thing rocks and you’ll get to see it in action in a few recipes. Sadly on this day I didn’t have it yet. I just microwaved the squash cubes, then added a little bit of water to them and smushed them up with a fork. Done and done, we have a filling. It might be pretty delicious to mix in some ricotta cheese as well but it’s good just plain also.

The most time consuming portion of the dinner was making the dough, rolling it out and cutting out the dough circles. Noodle dough is pretty basic and I have to be honest, I rarely measure it or make it the same way twice. Let’s just say it’s really hard to screw it up. Most regions of Italy make dough with olive oil, flour and a bit of water. Some will use an egg here and there. Bologna, a region known for their dairy cows and subsequently their cheesy, creamy cuisine uses only flour and egg in their dough. I learned that watching Samantha Brown on the Travel Chanel but have found it’s pretty accurate. Bologna has livestock, no olive trees and few tomatoes. If you go there you’re likely to be served egg noodles topped with creamy sauces and you’ll find lots and lots of cheese and meat. And bologna in it’s American form and also it’s original Italian form. (They feed the pigs a LOT of cheese, mostly Parmesan) and then I think they also mix the meat with cheese before they do whatever it is they do to make it form into those rounded logs. Some day I’ll go there, then I’ll tell you more about that.

Anyway, I like using a bit of egg and a bit of olive oil in my dough so it has a nice robust flavor. Unlike the dough you’d find in Bologna though, I don’t think dough should get all its tackiness from a fat source so I usually add about half a cup of water as well.

Just mix it together with a fork until all the liquids are incorporated into the flour. I used two eggs, a tablespoon of oil, a half a cup of water and about two cups of flour. Once incorporated, turn the dough out onto a flour surface and knead by hand for a few minutes. The dough should not be sticky to the touch but it should not be dry and you shouldn’t be able to see any flour on the surface. You likely won’t get it totally smooth during kneading, but once it seems pretty elastic and only slightly lumpy, stick it on a plate or cookie sheet and cover it with a bowl. You want to let it sit for at least ten minutes. This improves the elasticity and structure of the dough. You’ll also notice when you take it out that the lumpiness is gone and you have a smooth ball of dough. Hooray!

The ball of dough below is half of what I had with the measurements above. For what I was making, it was WAY too much dough. Luckily I just froze two-thirds of it and used it this week for a different dinner.

Ravioli is two layers of dough and a filling right? So you need your layers of dough to be super thin because otherwise it’s going to be like chewing through a super ball. Noodle dough, when the right consistency, can be pretty easy to work with although it does take a lot of arm power to get it thin enough. This dough didn’t require any flour for rolling at all, even after I froze and thawed it a few weeks later. Here’s the starting thickness and size:

And here it is rolled out to an appropriate thickness for the ravioli. Please note that in my awesome rolling efforts, I made a dough replica of Australia. Huzzah!

Honestly, you have to get it super thin. Roll and roll and roll. Pick it up and flip it over. Keep rolling. 

I would recommend using a cookie cutter to get the dough circles you need but I don’t have one that isn’t a weird shape. (Caribou shaped ravioli anyone?) So I used a pint glass and it worked just fine. It’s also a really classy way to make your ravioli.

This first one is still a little too thick. The bottom was pretty thick still.

Eventually I mastered it and got my assembly line going. I cut out as many as I could from the sheet of dough, pulled the scraps up and filled them. Fresh dough sticks together pretty well but just to be careful, I dipped my finger in water and rand it around the edge of the dough. Don’t overfill your ravioli either because that is a recipe for explosion.

I tried crimping by hand as well as with a fork.

They both stayed sealed but I think the fork-crimped ravioli look fancier before they’re cooked.

They pretty much look the same after.
When I boil noodles I always stick them straight in the pot with the water when it’s cold. There’s no reason to wait until it’s boiling. It just wastes time and energy with dried noodles. Fresh dough only needs about 60 seconds in boiling water though, so for fresh dough I will wait until it’s a nice rolling boil. (Seriously, this is just like ‘preheating’ the oven for a caserole or frozen pizza. Cakes need a preheated oven. Things that you’re baking until ‘brown and bubbly’ do not. Just stick it in there and turn it on. Preheating is a waste of time and money. The oven can heat up while the food is in there. Senor still preheats once and a while and it drives me bonkers.)

I went really low-key on the sauce. Half a stick of butter and a quarter cup of brown sugar. Microwave and whisk. Pour over. Done. The squash has such a sweet flavor, the dough was nice and savory along with the salad, so it was a nice balance all around. Plus, I’m pretty sure butter and brown sugar makes all things better.


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