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A New New Year’s

Mon Jan 14, 2008

ravioli prep

Butternut Squash, Asiago & Walnut Ravioli with Brown Butter

Why are people so willing to start off the New Year with pie-in-the-sky expectations—thinking New Year’s Eve is going to be some transformational event—only to go to a large party, get sloppy drunk and end up in bed with a stranger? No wonder New Year’s is always a disappointment? I’m not trying to be Negative Nancy here, it just seems our New Year’s traditions are, shall I say, a little lacking.

What we know as New Year’s Eve is, essentially, an arbitrary designation made by two Roman consuls in 153 BC. Before that, the holiday was celebrated on March 15. And there are plenty of cultures that don’t even follow the Roman calendar, celebrating their New Year in the fall like Rosh Hashana—the Jewish New Year, or February, like the Chinese.

Normally, having spent much of my adult life in the restaurant business, I work on New Year’s Eve. The money is fantastic and, unlike my non-working friends, I wake up January 1st feeling refreshed. But at the beginning of December my dear friend Brooke, of Foodwoolf, and I were eating lunch at Joan’s On Third, when our cheese-pusher, Chester, mentioned he’d just gotten in the sausage for a traditional Italian New Year’s dish, cotechino con lenticche—cotechino with lentils. Traditionally eaten by northern Italians to bring prosperity in the New Year, the sausage is spiced with clove and encased in pig skin, which accounts for its unusually tacky texture. Brooke and I immediately decided there was no better way to reclaim New Year’s than to celebrate New Year’s Day and cook this ancient dish.

My first collaboration of the New Year ensued. Brooke and I decided on a full menu, comprised of a pasta course, the lentils as the main course complemented by homemade filoncino—an Italian-style baguette, a cheese course and cannoli for dessert.

Brooke’s written so beautifully about the cotechino that I encourage you to read about that on her blog.

Butternut Squash, Asiago & Walnut Ravioli with Brown Butter
Cotechino con Lenticche
Torta di Gorganzola
Cannoli Two Ways

While I still don’t have a pasta roller, I wasn’t so afraid of making the ravioli by hand. I decided to fill it with roasted butternut squash, asiago and walnuts, a recipe reminiscent of a one of my favorite bruschetta in Jennifer and Jason Denton’s Simple Italian Sandwiches.

Butternut Squash, Asiago & Walnut Ravioli with Brown Butter

Ravioli Dough:
3 cups semolina flour
4 eggs
½ tsp olive oil

Mound the flour on a wood cutting board, creating a well in the center for the eggs and olive oil. Using a fork, slowly incorporate the eggs, oil and flour, slowly pulling in more flour as the ingredients are blended. You’ll need to continuously reshape the mound to maintain the integrity of the well shape.

Once about half of the flour is incorporated, you should be able to start kneading the dough by hand. Once it’s all come together remove the dough from the board and scrape up any leftover bits and discard. Reflour the board and knead the dough for about six minutes; it should be elastic and a little sticky. Ball up the dough and wrap it in plastic. Let it rest at room temperature for a half an hour.

Butternut Squash Filling:
1 large butternut squash (about 3 lbs)
1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp hot chile flake
1 ½ tsp honey
¾ tsp coarse sea salt
5 oz fresh grated asiago
Walnut oil

Peel and seed squash and cut into 1/4-inch cubes. Combine squash, walnuts, olive oil, chile flakes, honey and sea salt in a bowl. Toss ingredients until completely coated with oil. Pour out onto baking sheet and cook in 350-degree oven for a half hour, stirring every 10 minutes.

Turn temperature on oven up to 500 degrees and cook squash mixture for 10 minutes more or until squash are tender. Let cool.

In food processor, combine squash mixture and cheese. Blend until ingredients are almost smooth. Scoop squash mixture into a pastry bag or Ziploc, cutting off one corner to squeeze out filling.

Ravioli:
Cut your dough in half, forming each segment into a ball with your hands. Wrap one in plastic and set aside. On a large, lightly floured surface, roll out your pasta dough into a rectangle until it is about ¼-inch thick. Fold in half and roll out again. Repeat this four more times, rolling dough out thinner each time. Roll the dough out until it’s about 1/8-inch thick. Pipe filling out onto dough strip at 1-inch intervals, about ½-inch in from the edge. Fold the ½-inch of dough over and press to seal edges and individual filling pockets. Cut ravioli with a dough scraper–you may want to trim the edges with a kitchen scissor–crimping the edges closed with a fork. If you have a pastry roller, you can separate the ravioli using that, too. Put finished ravioli on a cookie sheet dusted with cornmeal until ready to use. You can also freeze them.

To serve: Bring a large pot of seasoned water to a boil. Add ravioli and cook for about five minutes or until ravioli are floating at the top. Drain.

In a sauté, melt ¼ cup of butter, allowing it to foam. As the bubbles dissipate the butter will brown, remove from heat.

Ladle six ravioli into a dish. Top with 2 tablespoons brown butter and finish with fresh-grated asiago and a drizzle of walnut oil.

Everything came out fantastic! The ravioli were like feather pillows of pasta filled with nutty sweetness. The cotechino was garlicky and rich and a perfect counterpoint to the earthy Umbrian lentils. I made a light orange zest-spiked ricotta to fill some of the cannoli shells with, filling the others with Boston Cream.

It was the perfect way to start the New Year, infusing it with the perfect ingredients: good friends, good food wine and great conversation.

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4 Responses to “A New New Year’s”

 
  1. Brooke Says:

    Yeah, what she said.

    Everything was amazing! Your ravioli was gorgeous and had so many wonderful flavors. More please!

  2. Brian Says:

    There is a restaurant in Stamford, CT called Pellicci’s that serves this as a special. It’s really great. The only problem is that it’s only on the menu for a month out of the year. Now it can be an everyday thing. Cheers.

  3. admin Says:

    Well, almost every day 😉 They took a few hours to make.

  4. tastememory girl Says:

    i luv making pasta – this looks delicious esp. with the butternut squash & all the ingredients combined…definitely spicy salty sweet!

    thanks for sharing this….

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