Now that the wind has picked up and there's a chill in the air, I've found myself returning to heat in the kitchen. I haven't yet moved to long roasts, braises, or stews, but I've started moving away from quick and cold. While I've been lamenting the end of tomato season, I've been cheered up by the arrival of fall treats like winter squash.
Last week's farm share contained a beautiful kabocha squash. This Japanese squash variety (sometimes called Japanese pumpkin) has green or orange skin, sometimes striped, that’s edible when cooked. Kabocha are shaped like small globes that have been squashed (sorry) a little from the top. The intensely orange flesh has a dense, silky texture and a rich, buttery taste. Roasting brings out its latent sweetness. (Bonus: like other winter squash, it's a good source of beta-carotene, iron, vitamin C, and potassium.)
In Japan, kabocha is eaten simmered, in tempura, in soups and in other preparations. I like to use it anywhere I might use butternut squash, often sliced and roasted or pureed in soups. In this recipe, kabocha squash makes a luscious filling for homemade ravioli. It’s paired with tangy goat cheese, herbal sage, and rich, nutty brown butter.
When making pasta from scratch, it's great to grab a friend (two sets of hands are better than one), a glass of wine (it takes a little time), and an apron (it can be a messy affair). I had a lovely time making fresh pasta with my friend Kristine a few weeks back. She had never done it before but nailed it right away. Don’t be afraid to give fresh pasta a try!
So grab a friend, a squash, a glass of wine, and enjoy.
Kabocha Squash Ravioli with Goat Cheese, Sage, and Brown Butter
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons water
1 kabocha squash (substitute: butternut), halved lengthwise, seeds removed
4 cloves garlic, skin on
Extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces goat cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon water
4 tablespoons butter
Fresh sage leaves
For the dough: Pour the flour into a volcano-like mound on a clean, dry work surface. Make a wide crater in the center of the well. Crack the eggs into the well. Add the salt, olive oil, and water to the well. Mix the ingredients in the well with a fork. Begin to incorporate flour from the walls, bit by bit. (Be careful not to break the wall.)
Once the dough starts to form, bring it together with your hands. Knead the dough vigorously for ten minutes, until smooth and supple. It's important that you knead the dough with force and that you do it for the full 10 minutes. (Kneading the dough works the gluten, which will give the pasta that pleasantly chewy texture.)
After you work the dough, let it rest for a half hour. (It's just as important as kneading to let the dough rest so the gluten can relax.)
Roll the dough out into long, thin sheets with a pasta roller. Cover with a cloth until ready to use.
For the filling: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Rub the cut sides of the squash and the garlic with olive oil. Place the squash cut-side down on a sheet tray and roast until the flesh yields readily to the touch. Scoop out the flesh. Puree the squash with the cheese and sage and a drizzle of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
For the egg wash: Beat the egg with the water. Set aside.
For the ravioli: Place one sheet of pasta on a work surface. Drop teaspoon-size mounds of filling onto the pasta, spaced about 1 1/2 inches apart, along the bottom half of the sheet. Brush the edges and between the mounds with the egg wash. Fold the top half of the sheet over the bottom half. Press around the mounds to squeeze out all of the air (so the ravioli doesn’t burst when it cooks). Press firmly around the edges. Cut the ravioli with a knife or pasta cutter.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the ravioli until they float, a couple of minutes.
For the sauce: Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Cook, swirling the skillet, until the butter begins to foam. Continue cooking until the foam subsides and the butter turns golden and smells nutty. Be careful not to overcook it; it burns easily. Remove from heat. Add the sage leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Place the ravioli in the skillet and toss with the sauce.