Life in a Northern Town

New Year, New Ravioli

My success with lasagna noodles emboldened me to try my hand at making ravioli. It was far easier than I expected— it's not much different from making pot stickers (recipe here) or cream cheese puffs (recipe here). A little filling, a little folding and a tight seal with a little water and you have a seriously good homemade ravioli. Which makes for a seriously nice dinner after a cross-country ski on a bright but very cold afternoon.

I was a bit worried about the ravioli self destructing in the pot of boiling water and while I did lose a few, the majority of them came out in one piece. I attribute this amazing, newbie ravioli maker success to three things: I covered the pasta water immediately after adding the ravioli to ensure the water returned to a rolling boil quickly, I didn't over-crowd the pot and I made sure each ravioli had a very tight seal. After all the work to make the filling and pasta, I can't begin to tell you how excited I was to scoop perfect pasta packages from the boiling water and place them on my plate. A glass of White Burgundy, a plate of homemade ravioli with a light Prosecco and cream sauce, my family at the table, the dogs under the table and a restorative afternoon on cross-country skis— 2014 is shaping up to be exactly what I hoped for when we stood around the fire on New Year's Eve and made our wishes.

Squash, Apple & Pancetta Ravioli

The Dough
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 tsp kosher salt
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup water

The Filling
1 medium squash, Hubbard or Butternut, cut in half and seeded
1 cup Sassy Nanny Lake Effect goat cheese
1 cup caramelized onion, minced
3/4 cup apple, peeled and finely chopped
3/4 cup pancetta, chopped
2 shallots, minced
3 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. fresh thyme, minced
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Preparation
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and place the squash, cut side down, on a sheet tray with about a 1/2 inch of water and cook for about 45 minutes, or until softened. Let cool slightly and then scoop the squash flesh from the skins and set aside.

In a medium sauté pan, cook the pancetta over medium heat until all the fat is rendered and it's a dark golden brown. Remove from the pan and add to the squash. In another sauté pan, melt 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat and sauté the apple pieces and shallots for about 10 minutes, or until lightly caramelized. Remove from the pan. Add the apples/shallot mixture, goat cheese, salt, pepper and thyme to the squash bowl and mix to thoroughly combine. Set aside while you prepare the pasta.

Place all the pasta ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer, except for the water. Turn the mixer on slowly and add 3 tablespoons of the water. Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture comes together and forms a ball. Knead the dough on a lightly floured board to make sure it is well mixed. Set aside to rest for 30 minutes.

Generously flour your counter top or work area. Cut the dough into 6 pieces and cover with a towel (don’t cover the pasta with kitchen towels if you use a scented fabric softener because the pasta will pick up the scent—use parchment instead). With your hands, flatten and shape one piece of dough into a 1/2-inch-thick rectangle. Dust it lightly with flour and pass it through the widest setting on the pasta machine. If the dough comes out oddly shaped, reform into a rectangle. Fold it in thirds, like a letter, and if necessary, flatten to 1/2 inch thick. Pass it through the widest setting again with the seam of the letter perpendicular to the rollers. Repeat this folding and rolling step three or four times, dusting the dough with flour if it becomes sticky.

Without folding the dough, pass it through the next setting on the pasta machine. Keep reducing the space between the rollers after each pass, lightly dusting the pasta with flour on both sides each time ( I stop at # 5 on the KitchenAid pasta roller).

Have about a cup of water and a pastry brush near the area where you will be forming the ravioli. Dust the counter and sheet of dough with flour, lay out the long sheet of pasta, and brush the top surface with the water. Drop a tablespoon or so of the squash filling on the top half of the pasta sheet, about 2 inches apart. Brush the area between each mound of filling with water. Fold the other 1/2 over the filling like a blanket. Using your fingers, gently press out air pockets around each mound of filling. Use a sharp knife to cut each pillow into squares and crimp the 3 edges with a fork to make a tight seal. Place the ravioli on a floured sheet tray and lay them out to dry slightly while you assemble the remaining ravioli.

Cook the ravioli in plenty of boiling salted water for 5 - 10 minutes (depending on how big they are). They'll float to the top when ready. Carefully lift the ravioli from water with a large strainer or slotted spoon. Toss with Prosecco/cream sauce (recipe here) and freshly grated Parmesan and serve immediately.