As you might have noticed, once an idea gets planted in my head – it’s hard to shake it free. For example, take this butternut squash:
Doesn’t it just scream autumn? I had been waiting eight months for this butternut squash. Last winter I went to visit my friend Jenny in Chicago to help her find a wedding dress and to learn how to make chocolates. While I was there, we went to Cafe Spiaggia (the restaurant where the wedding will be) and I had the most delicious butternut squash ravioli. Seriously – I am still thinking about it nearly a year later.
Previously, I had tried to make ravioli using wonton wrappers and it’s just not the same as fresh pasta. I knew this time I wanted to make them right – no shortcuts. I scoured the Uptown area for some fresh pasta sheets and then searched some more with no luck. Out of options, I decided to try my hand at pasta making, I mean, how hard could it be? Apparently no shortcuts means no shortcuts. So I announced my pasta-making intentions over lunch and was immediately offered the use of a pasta roller (Thanks Pete!). I was good to go.
Here’s what I found out: pasta dough is amazingly simple but in no way easy.
Two ingredients, that’s all, two ingredients! Flour, eggs (and I suppose a little water) and a LOT of elbow grease. Only pennies to make, which is kind of absurd.
I most anticipated the rolling part. After the first pass through the roller, I thought I had failed miserably. The dough was dry and somewhat crumbly. Not a pretty sight and did nothing to boost my kitchen ego.
But I kept going (if graduate school teaches you anything – it’s perseverance). Rolling the dough, folding the dough and re-rolling the dough. And at some point, something magical happens and the dough becomes soft and silky and recognizable as pasta.
I was completely enchanted.
Look Ma at what I can do!
That moment – that magical moment when the pasta dough becomes pasta – is utterly addicting and makes the whole process worth it. That is, if it is a Sunday afternoon and you are in no rush to make dinner…
Now, back to the butternut squash. I roasted it, added some ginger, parmesan cheese and finely ground hazelnuts and wrapped it in a ~3 inch square of pasta. First folding the dough in half to make a triangle and then bringing two points together to make a little “hats” (or cappellacci).
Add a little browned butter, sage and toasted hazelnuts … not bad for a Sunday afternoon.Butternut Squash Cappellacci with Browned Butter, Sage and Hazelnuts ********** Pasta Dough 2 cups flour 2 large eggs water Butternut Squash Filling 1 medium butternut squash 1 tablespoon olive oil salt and pepper to taste 1 teaspoon ground ginger 1/2 cup grated parmesan 1/2 cup finely ground hazelnuts 3 tablespoons butter 1/3 cups sage leaves, chopped 1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts **********
1. Mound flour on countertop with a well in the middle. Add eggs to well. With a fork, break up the eggs and start to incorporate the flour. Add water as needed to bring dough together.
2. Once dough is formed, wrap in a kitchen towel and let sit for about an hour.
3. Divide dough in fourths. Flatten dough into a rectangle and feed it through a pasta roller, set at the widest setting. (My dough was very piece-y after the first pass through). Gather dough together and repeat until a sheet forms. Fold pasta sheet in half and continue rolling it until it becomes soft and silky, occasionally adjusting the roller setting to narrower setting. Keep pasta sheets wrapped in a kitchen towel to prevent them from drying out.
4. Halve the butternut squash and remove the seeds. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 350º for about an hour. Scoop flesh into a medium bowl.
5. Stir in ginger, parmesan cheese and ground hazelnuts.
6. Cut pasta dough into 3-inch squares. Scoop about a tablespoon of filling into the center of each square. Fold dough in half to make a triangle, pinching edges together. Bring two points of the triangle together to form the “hat.”
7. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta for about 6-8 minutes and very carefully remove/drain.
8. Cook butter in a skillet over medium heat until it starts to brown, 3-4 minutes. Add sage, toasted hazelnuts and cook for an additional minute or two. Add pasta and toss to coat.