Butternut squash and amaretti ravioli
15 May 2018
I was intrigued when I first saw that it was an Northern Italian custom to crumble some amaretti biscuits to a squash pasta filling. I liked the idea - I imagined it would be an interesting added texture, with a hint of almond. I catalogued it away in my brain in my ‘things-to-try-one-day’ file. To be fair, it’s a large and bulging file and mostly filled with things that will never be tried.
Nevertheless, recently I was casting about for inspiration for a dinner party, and I remembered this one. Of course, you’re a wild reckless fool if you cook a dish for lots of people the first time you do it, so I had to try it out in advance.
The traditional dish from the region of Lombardy apparently includes not only amaretti but also quince or pear mustard, with alternatives adding in cinnamon. This is the official Christmas Eve dish of the region, apparently. I might well try this version at some point (so it remains in the bulging file), but this one without the quince was a fine meal regardless. It delivered exactly what I’d hoped, and has duly taken its place in my pasta repertoire.
Since carrying out the experiment, I realised that I’m obviously well behind the mainstream curve, since Tesco now carries a pumpkin and amaretti ravioli in its Tesco Finest range, and Sainsbury’s has something similar as well. So, yes, you now have an easy option to cheat should you fancy this and find yourself pressed for time. But you know that freshly home-made pasta is best, so give it a go.
Butternut squash and amaretti ravioli
This pasta is served with a sage buerre noisette. The sage / butternut squash combo is one I’ve used a number of times, and works particularly well here.
1 butternut squash
1 quantity home-made pasta dough
5 tablespoons olive oil
75g Parmesan cheese, plus more to serve
2 banana shallots, chopped
100g white breadcrumbs
4 amaretti biscuits
6 sprigs of sage, leaves picked
75g unsalted butter
2 tablespoons double cream
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC / 160ºC fan oven. Peel, deseed and chop the butternut squash into chunks. Coat the chunks lightly with olive oil and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place in a roasting tin and cover with tin foil. Roast until the flesh is soft, which should take 50 minutes or so. Allow to cool a little and then whizz in a blender until smooth.
2. Grate the Parmesan. Soften the shallots in olive oil until they are softened but not browned. Then mix the Parmesan, shallots and the bread crumbs into the puréed squash. Crush three of the biscuits and add as well. Taste the filling and adjust seasoning if required.
3. Roll out the pasta using a pasta machine, and create ravioli adding a spoonful of the filling for each. Put into the refrigerator until ready to cook.
4. Put the butter in a saucepan and melt over a gently heat. Then increase the heat and cook the butter until it starts to turn brown. Remove from the heat and allow to stand for a minute. Carefully pour the clarified butter into a clean pan, leaving the milky sediment behind. Return to a low heat and stir in the cream, stirring until it’s fully incorporated. Take off the heat and add the chopped sage leaves.
5. Meanwhile, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the ravioli. Cook for 2-3 minutes, drain and return to the pan with the sauce and a couple of pinches of salt. Agitate gently to coat, then serve the pasta in bowls. Scatter the remaining crushed amaretti biscuit over the top, and shave some additional Parmesan.
Unless you grow your own sage in the garden, you will have plenty left. Herbs can be frozen ready for use in future dishes. I also grew a healthy sage plant by putting a few stems in some water until they grew roots and then planting them into compost. Can’t guarantee it will work every time, but worth a try.
You’ll also have a lot of double cream left. You can freeze double cream, although it’s apparently best to freeze it after whipping - the texture of what you have will be better. You don’t need to do this if you expect to use the cream in cooking, since the heat will help the clumped-together fat molecules to break down.