St. Valentine's Day

My sister lives across the country in Boston. For those of you who haven’t been watching the news lately, it’s SNOWMAGGEDON there. Since she'll be coming home for Valentine's Day, we decided to make her something a little special (maybe some fresh pasta will persuade her to move back to California!) – and this holiday is all about celebrating the people you love.

Whether it’s a boyfriend, wife, brother, mother, grandfather, best friend, niece, dog – everyone deserves a little extra sweetness on this February 14th. And if you’re in a romantic state of mind, they do say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach – so why not combine both, with some heart-shaped pumpkin ravioli?

We have loved reading and cooking from the “Flour + Water: Pasta” cookbook and decided to adapt one of their delicious pasta recipes by using canned (oh, the horror!) pumpkin instead of taking a few hours to roast those gourds ourselves.

Now for those of you who almost stopped reading when I mentioned canned pumpkin, let me defend myself. Libby’s brand (the most commonly found) is 100% pumpkin - nothing else - and uses a strain of Dickinson pumpkins, with especially creamy flesh. It tastes very similar to butternut squash or zucca, which is the traditional filling used in the Bolognese recipes from which we usually cook. It’s a quick semi-homemade shortcut that doesn’t cut down on flavor but cuts way down on time, energy and cost.

Pumpkin Ravioli Adapted from Thomas McNaughton’s “Flour + Water: Pasta”

Ingredients

1 batch fresh pasta dough –

For a simple and easy to follow beat-by-beat description on how to make fresh egg pasta, we think this one is the best and the closest to the way we learned to make dough in Bologna. It's written by the Italian master Marcella Hazan’s son, Giuliano. http://giulianohazan.com/homemade-pasta-recipe/

For the filling:

3 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 15 oz. can Libby's pumpkin puree

olive oil

1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon

¼ tsp. ground nutmeg

¾ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

½ Tbsp. honey

½ Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

kosher salt, to taste 

For the sauce:

2 Tbsp. butter

1 ½ Tbsp. pumpkin seeds

¼ tsp. olive oil

kosher salt, to taste

small handful fresh sage leaves

            freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for finishing

Instructions:

1.     Make your fresh pasta dough. Let it rest for 30 minutes under a glass bowl or wrapped in plastic. Never refrigerate or freeze your dough.

2.     Heat a sauté pan over medium heat and add the butter. Once the butter has melted and the foam has subsided, cook, stirring constantly, until the butter becomes a light tan color. The butter should have a nutty aroma. Remove from the heat and set aside.

3.     To make the filling, add the canned pumpkin to a food processor along with the brown butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, honey and vinegar. Puree until smooth. The puree should have a nice balance of sweetness and acidity. Spoon the puree into a bowl and fold in the cheese. Season with salt to taste. Cover and transfer to the refrigerator until ready to fill your ravioli.

4.     Roll out your dough using a hand cranked machine, a KitchenAid attachment (or if you're in the more advanced school, via the traditional method with a rolling pin).

5.     Make sure to work with one sheet of dough at a time, leaving your unrolled pieces under plastic. The biggest enemy to your dough is air. 

6.    Put about 1 tsp. filling at least 2 inches apart on your rolled out sheet (depending on your heart cookie cutter’s size. We used a medium one, about 2 inches long x 1 ½ inches wide at its thickest point). *Note: We like to use a a pastry bag or a plastic bag with an edge snipped off but a teaspoon measure is just fine - whatever you think will be easiest for you.* 

7.    Cover the sheet with another piece of rolled out dough and use your fingers to gently press out any air around the filling and to form a seal. If your pasta is too dry to seal, use a tiny bit of water around the edges to make it stick - but only if you must because water is going to make the pasta gummy.

8.    Press your heart cookie cutter around the filling and place the ravioli on a semolina dusted sheet pan. *Note: this pasta has a very wet filling so if you're not planning to cook it immediately, freeze it on the semolina sheet pans until hardened and then in a plastic freezer bag until ready to use.*

9.     Bring a large pot of water to boil – salt well (it should taste like the sea!) after it comes to a boil.

10.     In a small bowl, stir together the pumpkin seeds with the olive oil and a pinch of salt. Spread the seeds on a baking sheet and toast until golden brown, about 10 minutes. 

11.     Drop the pasta into the boiling water. Meanwhile, heat a 12-inch sauté pan over high heat. Add 2 Tbsp. of the seasoned pasta water and 2 Tbsp. butter and bring to a simmer.

12.  Once the pasta is cooked 80 percent through, until almost al dente (about 2 to 3 minutes or about 4 minutes if frozen) add it to the pan along with the sage and swirl until the sauce coats the back of a spoon.

13.  Reserve the pasta water and if needed, add a few more tablespoons of it to keep a saucy consistency. Continue cooking until the pasta is tender, about 90 seconds. Season with salt.

14.  To serve, sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano and the toasted pumpkin seeds and serve immediately.

 This will make enough for a starter for 4 people or a main course for 2.

 Buon appetito and happy Valentine’s Day!