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Monday, November 23, 2009

acorn squash ravioli with orange-balsamic sauce

christmas '06 was spent with my cousin's family in florida. aunts, uncles, sisters, cousins and kids all descended on her home on florida's gulf coast. it was the first time our family had experienced a destination holiday and for a person of inferior temperamental fortitude the pressure could have caused an ulcer. i mean, hosting christmas is a big deal, right?

just before christmas dinner, my cousin, our hostess, pulled a beautiful bronze turkey out of the oven and moved it to a glass platter which, tragically, had been placed on the stove on a burner that was hot. when she picked up the platter to bring it to the table it shattered, and that gorgeous bird thudded to the floor in a pile of broken glass. she looked at it, stunned, for approximately 3 seconds then called to her daughter, "go get the camera!"

i wish i had her attitude in the kitchen. truly. but most of the time, i do not. where she saw family-christmas history in the making and requested it be documented, i would have walked straight out the door and tossed myself off a bridge.

our friend tristan came to visit recently and wanted to spend one evening making ravioli. he'd brought 4 darling little acorn squash from his garden which we determined would make a sublime ravioli filling. i searched around and decided on
this recipe from, primarily because it featured an orange and balsamic sauce. (i like sauce!)

i started on dinner and began to notice that the process was not going exactly as i'd pictured it. the dough was sticky and squirrelly, there seemed to be entirely too little filling-- it wasn't long before these worries became audible as i started muttering. "the dough isn't right..." "we're going to run out of squash..."

rob, tristan, and our other dinner guest were busily chatting away in the kitchen but would periodically hear my mutterings and interject with a casual and light rebuttal. "mmm, this looks great." "that's plenty of filling-- you know, in restaurants you get 4 giant raviolis with, like, a teaspoon each of filling in them." "nuh-uh, these nuts aren't overtoasted-- they're just right!" i decided the path of least resistance was to take their word for it, and so i soldiered on. tris jumped in to help put the ravs together, then i cooked and served. and you know what? they were right. there was just enough filling, the dough was great, and the nuts were exactly what the dish needed. it was delicious. it was, in fact, so good that i made it again the next week.

so, as a tribute to people everywhere who keep their cool in the kitchen, and to those who help me keep mine, i bring you acorn squash ravioli with orange-balsamic sauce.

acorn squash ravioli with pecans and orange-balsamic sauce
serves 2

for ravioli:

1 batch fresh pasta dough (williams sonoma recipe here)
1/2 acorn squash, halved, seeds removed (or other winter squash)
olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch nutmeg
2 to 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans (or other nut)

for sauce:

juice from 1 orange
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp butter

rub squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. bake at 375 degrees, cut-side down, until soft, 45-60 minutes.

cool squash and scoop out flesh. heat olive oil over medium heat in a saute pan and cook garlic just until fragrant, 1 minute or so. add squash to pan and cook, stirring, until the squash dries out a bit, about 10 minutes. remove from heat and stir in parmesan, pecans, nutmeg, and season with salt and pepper. let cool.

roll dough out into sheets (lowest setting on the pasta machine, if using one) and allow to dry out for about 15 minutes. cut the sheets into lengths twice the size of the finished ravioli. as in, for a 3x3" ravioli, cut dough to about 3x6". add 1-2 teaspoons of filling to one end of the dough strip. moisten edges with your finger dipped in water, and fold the dough over the filling, matching up the edges. press with the tines of a fork to seal and make cute little ruffles. (tristan showed me this trick!)

(the fold-over is my latest fill-em-up method because i find it easy, but you should obviously do whatever you want. cookie cutter, ravioli mold, rim of a glass, full sheets...)

place finished raviolis on a sheet of well-floured parchment paper and don't let them touch each other or they will stick together. (lesson learned.)

to make the sauce, combine the orange juice, brown sugar and balsamic and simmer until slightly reduced. remove from heat and stir in butter.

cook the raviolis in small batches (again, get too many in the pot and they will stick together) in a large pot of boiling salted water. they will float to the surface when ready, about 3 to 4 minutes.

serve with the sauce and garnish with fresh sage leaves.

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