Sunday, October 31, 2010

0 Recipe #189: Pumpkin-Pesto Ravioli

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The ravioli is actually orange-colored, for Halloween of course, although you wouldn't know it from looking at the photo. ;)
Ravioli comes in many shapes, sizes, colors, & designs: The traditional ones are usually either round, rectangular (i.e., usually square), or triangular (sometimes referred to as pansotti, which means "pot-bellied" in Italian), with pinked edges. There are also a plethora of modern "ravioli" shapes: Some are shaped into hearts, hexagons, & even animal figures, etc. Then there are the various different designs: striped, flecked, marbled, etc. Some have pinked edges that can be made with a fork or a ravioli stamp, while others have smooth edges.

Again, like the agnolotti recipe on this blog, this pasta is made from scratch & is going to take some time to prepare. Plus, if you're like me & don't happen to own a pasta press or ravioli stamp (yet!), you'll need to factor in the additional time it'll take to do almost everything completely by hand. ;) (Due to the time commitment fresh pasta-making requires, I currently don't make fresh pasta often enough to justify the purchase, although I might reconsider since I'll probably be posting more fresh pasta recipes in future. ;) ) Regardless, you'll probably want to save this recipe for the weekend & either get a few helping hands, invest in a few pasta-making tools (like a pasta press & a dual-purpose ravioli cutter & sealer, which simultaneously cuts & seals the ravioli in a single rotary motion), or hire a sous chef & an army of staff, so you can eat your meal before the sun sets. :)

While you don't need a pasta press or ravioli stamp to make the ravioli, these handy, time-saving tools certainly help the ravioli-making process to go a whole lot faster. The press will also ensure that the pasta is of uniform thickness. However, if you don't possess these tools, it's still possible to make great tasting (and great looking!) ravioli. As long as you have a rolling pin, a round 3"-diameter glass, & a clean flat surface in which to work, you're good to go. With a good eye and steady, strong hands, you'll be able to properly position the rolling pin and apply the correct amount of pressure with each rolling motion, to create beautiful, evenly rolled-out dough. See?! You don't always need fancy tools to get the job done. :-D

As I've stated before, the payout of making your own fresh pasta is huge. When it's good, nothing compares to freshly-made pasta. And please, no substituting wonton-wrappers as a substitute for fresh ravioli. This is homemade Italian pasta we're making here. :)

Happy Halloween!


Pumpkin-Pesto Ravioli

Dough Ingredients:
1 c. semolina flour
1 egg
1 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. tomato paste, from a tube (for color)
1/4 tsp. salt, or to taste

Filling Ingredients:
1/4 c. fresh "pie" pumpkin (also called "sugar" or "sugar pie" pumpkin), first halved, then deseeded (reserve seeds), de-pulped, & diced, with rinds removed
1/2 c. water (for boiling pumpkin)
1/4 c. nonfat, part-skim ricotta cheese
1/4 c. freshly shredded Asiago (or if unavailable, use Parmigiano-Reggiano)
1/4 Tbsp. freshly grated lemon zest
1/16 tsp. (1 pinch) ground nutmeg
2 1/4 tsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped
salt & pepper, to taste

Sauce Ingredients:
1/2 T. olive oil (optional)
1/2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. shallot, finely minced (about 1 medium shallot)
1/2 Tbsp. garlic, peeled & finely minced (about 1 small clove)
1 Tbsp. unsalted pecans, crushed
1 Tbsp. unsalted (prepackaged) pumpkin seeds, shelled
1/8 c. sherry (or dry white wine)
1/2 Tbsp. pasta water
10 fresh, medium-sized sage leaves
1/4 c. pesto (see recipe)
salt, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste
1/8 c. freshly shredded Asiago (or if unavailable, use Parmigiano-Reggiano)

Directions: Set up dough hook attachment in an electric mixer. Add flour, egg, water, oil, tomato paste, & salt, & mix on high speed. Stop mixer every so often to fold in flour from sides of the bowl. Mix ingredients until dough ball is formed. [If you'd like to make dough the old fashioned way, pour the flour into a mound, make a small depression in the center, & drop the egg, oil, water, tomato paste, & salt into this hole, folding in the flour from the sides until fully mixed. Lightly oil hands (to prevent dough from sticking to them) & then knead dough, adding flour &/or small drops of oil or water as necessary.] Be very careful to not overwork the dough or it'll become loose & crumbly, & lose its elasticity; this makes the dough extremely hard to work, as it'll easily tear, thus making the ravioli a challenge to properly assemble! Place towel over mixing bowl, & let dough set for an hour.

While the dough is setting, make the filling: Cook fresh pumpkin in 1/2 c. boiling water until tender (but not mushy). Transfer both the pumpkin & its liquid to a food processor (or blender) & purée until smooth & creamy. Let cool. In a separate bowl, mix together ricotta, Asiago, lemon zest, nutmeg, parsley, salt, & pepper. Transfer cooled pumpkin to bowl & thoroughly combine. Set aside. (Refrigerate if necessary, i.e., if you should finish making the filling before the hour is up.)

After an hour has passed, prepare the ravioli dough: Again, lightly oil hands before handling the dough. Remove doughball, & roll out onto floured surface with a rolling pin.  Be sure to generously flour both the dough ball & the rolling pin, to keep them from sticking to each other. Roll out dough until it's approximately 1/8" thick or less and has a smooth, flat, & even consistency.

To make the ravioli, take a short, stemless glass (i.e., best for applying direct pressure without glass breakage!) & gently press it into the dough sheet, twisting it back & forth into the dough until it cuts through it. Transfer each cut-out to a large sheet of wax paper, which has been spread out onto a flat, clean surface. Repeat procedure, removing remaining scraps of dough & reforming them into another dough sheet each time until you've used up all of the dough. Make 24 cut-outs in all. If you roll out the dough very thinly and strategically position the glass for each cut-out, you shouldn't have any difficulty working with the re-worked dough and eking out 24 cut-outs. If necessary, oil the dough again to make it more pliable. Also be sure to lightly oil the cut-outs every few minutes (by oiling your palms & gently pressing down on the cutouts) while you're working the rest of the dough to make sure they don't dry out. (Covering them with a cloth/paper towel or another sheet of wax paper doesn't seek to work. Believe me, I've tried that technique already. ;) They somehow still manage to dry out. Don't use water either, which will only make the dough harder to lift from the wax paper when it's time to assemble the ravioli. I'm telling you from experience, oil tends to work best. )

Spoon out small dollops of filling into the center of each pasta cut-out. Next, dip your index (i.e., pointer) finger in water and trace it around the circumference of one of the circle cut-outs. Then place a dry cut-out directly on top, quickly sealing the outer edges by pressing down with your fingers in a repeated motion, pressing them in a circular fashion around the ravioli. Be sure to press out any air bubbles as you seal the edges. Repeat the process until all of the remaining circle cut-outs have been used. If you like, you can press the tines of a fork (or a round ravioli stamp) around the sealed edges of your ravioli to create pinked edges. Allow pasta to set for another 5-10 minutes, while you bring a large pot of lightly salted water (that's been seasoned with a drop of olive oil) to a rolling boil. The water should take about 8 minutes or so to come to a rolling boil. (Or, if you don't plan to cook the pasta right away, you can freeze it for future use. Some people like to freeze the pasta first for a few hours so that it hardens a bit before cooking.  I personally think this step is unnecessary for the most part, as the whole point is use the pasta when it's super-fresh & soft.)

If you're planning to cook the pasta right away, drop the pasta into the pot of boiling, seasoned water, & cook until al dente, about 10-12 minutes or so. Normally, fresh pasta cooks very quickly, but in this case, I've found that since the ravioli are very large, they take a bit longer to cook. It all depends upon how thinly you've rolled out the dough. Use your best judgment, and watch the pot carefully, checking on the ravioli every few minutes. Remove from heat, drain, & set aside, reserving about a 1/2 c. of the pasta water.

Next, make the sauce: Heat the olive oil & butter in a large (12-13") sauté pan on low heat. Add the shallot & garlic & cook until tender & lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Next add pecans & pumpkin seeds & cook for about 30-60 seconds more, until lightly browned. Deglaze with sherry & pasta water, quickly adding the sage leaves & cooking them until tender. Reduce liquid in the pan by at least 1/2 or 3/4 of its original amount. Next, add ravioli and cook until firm & light golden brown. Stir occasionally to prevent pasta from sticking to pan & also to keep the smaller ingredients from burning. In the last few seconds stir in the pesto and then quickly remove from heat. Season with salt & pepper, to taste. Stir throughly to evenly disperse ingredients. Carefully transfer to plates, being sure to scoop out any remaining sauce from the pan, & immediately top with freshly shredded Asiago. Serve & enjoy. Mangia!

Yield: Makes about 12 ravioli, about 3" in diameter. (Serves 2-4, depending upon your diners' appetite. ;) )

Chef's Notes: In my opinion, "pie" pumpkins are one of the best kinds of edible pumpkins to use for cooking & baking. They are small & smooth (read, "not thready" like generic, field pumpkins used for carving Jack O'Lanterns!). I used a 3 lb. pumpkin, puréed the whole thing, & then just refrigerated the remainder for other seasonal recipes. In other words, you'll be seeing more pumpkin recipes on this blog. :-D After all, I have to use up the left-over pumpkin purée while it's still fresh. ;-)

Also, here's a helpful tip for preparing the pumpkin: It's easiest to first halve the pumpkin with a large, sharp knife, remove the pulp & seeds, & then slice it into medium-sized wedges before slicing off the rind. Do not use a vegetable peeler: It will take forever. ;)

Although unshelled pumpkin seeds appear in the above photo for artistic effect, this recipe actually calls for the shelled kind, which have a much better taste & texture for this particular dish. To save time, be sure to use pre-packaged, shelled pumpkin seeds for the sauce, since it'll take an eternity to shell the pumpkin seeds from the fresh pumpkin. (Sure, I like doing a lot of cooking from scratch, but shelling pumpkin seeds, one at a time -- without the aid of some kind of machine to automate the process -- is just plain masochistic!) Of course, you can still save the unshelled pumpkin seeds & toast them as a snack for later. That's what I did. Yum, yum! :)

I'd also recommend prepping the various components in advance -- particularly the dough, which can be frozen, & the pesto. The filling can also be made ahead of time, & will keep for a day or two. This will save you a lot of prep time for when it's time to cook the meal. 

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