Making pasta requires practice, but it is easy to get the hang of. All you need is a hand-cranked pasta machine, which will knead the flour for you and is essentially foolproof. Whenever I visit home in Arizona, one of our family dinners always includes fresh homemade pasta, since my parent’s house is where the pasta machine resides. (Someday I’ll get one of my own.)
I have been dying to make one of Deborah Madison’s all-time favorite pasta recipes—butternut squash ravioli with toasted pecans and sage. The recipe calls for 1½ pounds fresh pasta, which is provided in her book, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Recall that you can also purchase fresh pasta sheets. As an alternative, I have found some ravioli recipes that use wonton wrappers for the pasta (like this one).
The process may seem complicated but it’s really not too bad. I provide some pictures of the process for clarification. I assure you, the resulting pasta is heavenly and you will not regret the effort. Besides, how many (non-Italian) people can say that they’ve made their own pasta?
Makes 1½ pounds
3 cups flour
3 large organic eggs
3 teaspoons olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
In the mixer: Beat eggs and oil together in a cup. Combine flour and salt in the bowl. With the mixer on low, add eggs and mix until flour is absorbed. Form dough into a ball and knead with hands until smooth. Cover and let rest 15 minutes.
By hand: Shape flour into a mound on a clean counter; make a well in the center. Put eggs, oil and salt in the center, and combine with a fork. Gradually begin pulling in the flour; bring in as much as you can to have a smooth dough that isn’t sticky. Knead the dough for a few minutes. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes.
Rolling out the dough
Divide dough into two pieces and flatten to make the width of the machine. Set the machine to the widest setting and feed the dough through. Fold the dough into thirds and run it through again. Repeat several times until dough is smooth.
Go to the next notch on the machine and run the dough through once. Turn to the next notch and pass the dough through again. Continue to run the dough until it is thin, but not so thin that it tears easily (for ravioli). At any point you can cut the dough into smaller lengths to make long pieces of dough easier to handle. Cut the final long strips into smaller lengths (for ravioli). Cover the strips with plastic wrap and work quickly so the dough doesn’t dry out. At this point, you can cut the pasta into noodles, use it to make lasagna, or as I did, use it to make homemade ravioli.
Butternut Squash Ravioli
1 large butternut squash
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
½ cup grated Parmesan
½ cup bread crumbs
1 ½ pounds egg pasta
4 tablespoons butter
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1/3 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving
Making the filling
Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a sheet pan with foil. Slice squash in two, remove seeds and bake cut side down until soft, 30-40 minutes. Scoop out 2 cups of the flesh. Combine with butter until smooth. Add cheese and bread crumbs and season with salt and pepper.
Making the filled pasta
Crease a strip of dough crosswise, lay out a double row of filling on one half, then bring the second half over the top. The ravioli should be about 2-inch squares. Dampen the dough before pinching the edges to form a seal. Cut with a sharp knife or a ravioli cutter. Cover with a towel to keep from drying out. Ravioli can be placed on wax paper and refrigerated, uncovered, for a few hours before cooking.
Making the brown butter sauce
In a large skillet, melt butter with garlic, sage and thyme and cook until butter is browned and has a nutty aroma. Keep warm.
Cooking the ravioli
Lower all of the ravioli at once into a pot of gently boiling salted water. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Lift them out with a strainer and add to skillet with sauce. Add pecans and cook for 30 seconds. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan.