Saturday, January 27, 2007

Squash Ravioli with Spinach and Walnuts

Little bundles with surprises inside, or pocket food, are a great idea. The whole concept reinforces the idea of mystery and is a lovely metaphor for that silly little cliché adults are always telling children: don’t judge a book by its cover.

My mother used to make filled cookies. They were cut into circles with a few small slits in the top to make them look like flowers. Brown around the edges, with just a little colour peeking through, they were alluring. I liked looking at them, and biting into them. The best boring part was the edge, when you just got cookie. The best part was the second bite when you got some filling and discovered what was inside.

I still get excited with a box of chocolates for the same reason. And ravioli too.

Normally, I just make ricotta ravioli. It’s Tony’s favourite and it goes with everything. I’ve been experimenting with squash ravioli this fall and have decided I rather like that filling too.
With this weekend’s trial, I used Dutch Acorn squash. I had never had them before in any way, but essentially they are sweet and mild. Usually, I use buttercup squash, which is a little sweeter. My favourite squash combo so far includes a bit of brown sugar, garlic, ricotta and oregano. I’ve also variously tried butter, olive oil, cottage cheese, Italian seasoning and ginger.

My friend Dan is happy to eat squash ravioli with just melted butter, which is a traditional Italian dressing. He’s a skinny toothpick with an Italian partner, and a very traditional Italian mother-in-law, so it’s OK. I don’t really feel like I can get away that too baldly, at least not with Tony. In my head is echoing “A pound of butter is equal to a pound of fat” in a sing song voice.

I did use melted butter this time (Tony suggests olive oil next time), and tossed it with spinach and walnuts. The spinach was acceptable, but the walnuts were fabulous!

Squash Ravioli
2 small acorn squash or 1 medium buttercup squash
5 large cloves of garlic, roasted and pureed
½ C ricotta cheese
1 Tbsp brown sugar, or to taste
1 tsp dried oregano
Pinch of salt

I used my usual pasta dough recipe, except that I subsitituted one third of the all purpose flour with one third pastry flour. That was a handy tip from my friend Dan, who rightfully claims that pastry flour makes the dough softer.

1. Puncture the squash and roast it in the oven at 350F for about an hour (more or less, depending on the size). When a knife slides in and out easily, it's done.
2. Roast the garlic for about 45mins until soft. Mash.
3. Slice open the squash and allow to cool enough to work with it. Scoop out the flesh. Mash.
4. Add all other ingredients to the squash, and mix.
5. Prepare pasta and form into strips of dough with a pasta press. Form into raviolis (or tortellini, etc.).
6. Drop the ravioli into boiling salted water and cook for about 3 min.
7. Toss lightly with melted butter (or olive oil), baby spinach and walnuts.

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