Wednesday, November 19, 2008

66. Butternut Squash, Sage, and Goat Cheese Ravioli with Hazelnut-Brown Butter Sauce (p. 236)

I've been wanting to make pasta for a long time, but I must admit that I'm a little intimidated by the whole process. This recipe, however, is an excellent baby step into the world of homemade pasta.

The trick here is that these raviolis are made with packaged wonton wrappers instead of homemade pasta dough. And while this is a bit of a cheat, it's got the Gourmet seal of approval (it's in The Book, after all), and when they were cooked, I couldn't tell the difference.

This recipe begins from the inside out ... you start by making the filling. First, cut a two-pound butternut squash in half lengthwise and seed it. Roast it, flesh-side down on a roasting pan until softened. While that's cooking, saute a finely chopped onion with some butter and sage (breathing deeply to enjoy that great sage-and-butter aroma). After the squash has cooled a bit, scoop out the flesh, and combine it with the onion mixture and some grated aged goat cheese.

Then you're ready to assemble the ravioli. Start by putting a single wonton wrapper on a lightly floured work surface. Put a teaspoon of the filling in the center of the wrapper. Then brush the edges of the wrapper with water, place another wonton wrapper on top of the filing and seal the edges with your fingers. I took the optional step of cutting away the excess dough with a cookie cutter. This resulted in perfectly shaped ravioli, and I think that it also helped to seal them. Place the finished ravioli on a kitchen towel to dry slightly. Repeat 29 times. Yeah, this is pretty time-consuming assembly-line stuff. After about an hour, I only had 15 ravioli to show for my efforts and a seemingly endless supply of filing and wonton wrappers remaining. With time running short and a hungry, pregnant wife grumbling in the next room, I decided to cook what I had and stash the rest of the filling and wrappers in the fridge for later assembly.

The ravioli get cooked in boiling water for a few minutes until the float. I'm not sure how or why that works, but that's how you know when ravioli are cooked, they float. Anyway, I was really impressed with how well these ravioli held up in the boiling water. I was careful to keep the water at a very gentle boil so that the ravioli wouldn't get jostled too much. And only one of the ravioli's seams split during cooking, emptying its contents into the cooking liquid.

While the ravioli cooked, I made the Hazlenut Brown Butter Sauce. I put an insane amount of butter into a pan with some hazlenuts that I had toasted in the oven and chopped. (The Book's tip about rubbing the toasted hazlenuts in a kitchen towel to get the skins off really works!). In just a few minutes, the butter was nicely browned and it gave off a very nice nutty, caramel scent. Keep a close eye on this, because once the butter starts to brown, it happens very quickly, and your brown butter can turn to burnt butter in no time. I took it off the heat and set it aside until the ravioli was ready.

When the ravioli were done, I gently removed them from the boiling water with a large slotted spoon. I divided them into two bowls and poured a little bit of the brown butter sauce (this sauce is pure butter, folks, so a little goes a long way). The result? Absolutely delicious. The ravioli were tender and light. The filling sliky and creamy with the sweetness of the squash, the tang of the goat cheese and the earthiness of the sage. The hazlenut brown butter was rich, and had an excellent nutty flavor. A very sophisticated meal. This was a pretty labor intensive dish, but it was fun to make, and totally worth it.

So, a couple of days later, I took the rest of the filling and wonton wrappers out of the fridge and assembled the rest of the ravioli. After I let them dry out on a kitchen towel for a bit, I put them in a single layer on a baking sheet and then slipped it in the freezer. After a while, when they had frozen pretty well, I transferred them into a ziploc bag and stashed them back into the freezer. The next weekend, we didn't have any dinner plans, and we pulled a couple of handfuls of the frozen ravioli out of the freezer. Popped them into some boiling water until they floated, meanwhile cooking up some more brown butter. How did it taste? Just as good as the first time!

Date Cooked: October 19, 2008
Degree of Difficulty: Not difficult, but time consuming
Rating: A-


Karen said...

Using the wonton paper is a great idea seeings that this is such a time consuming recipe anyway. I've never made pasta - like you - a little intimidated by it! :)

Kiki said...

Grumble grumble

Melissa Bach Palladino said...

I made this for Christmas last year for the vegetarians and they *flipped* over it. They freeze well (including the hazelnut butter!!) if you want to store them for another day...

Adam said...

I was very pleased with how they held up in the freezer, but I didn't even think to try to freeze the hazlenut butter. Who knew!