She left behind the usual ginormous amount of tortellini I will be cooking for Christmas, pumpkin noodles, sausage ragout and one of my favorite seasonal items: pumpkin ravioli.
If you have ever been to Italy, you might know that pumpkin (or squash) filled ravioli are Mantua’s signature dish: delicate and sweet morsels typically served in a simple butter and sage sauce. For my palate, Mantua’s ravioli are a bit too sweet (they tend to include Mostarda di Frutta in their ingredient list which is mustard flavored candied fruit).
I mostly grew up on pumpkin ravioli in the tradition of Ferrara, a pretty town not far from Bologna that used to have a sizable Jewish population. Pumpkins were introduced by the Spanish and Portuguese Jews who made their way to Italy after being expelled by the Inquisition in the 15th century. The Gonzaga family, who ruled the Duchy of Ferrara, welcomed them and there they lived pretty much uninterrupted until the Second World War.
For the traditional version, you will need to include some amaretti – crunchy almond macaroons – but I often omit them, especially if the pumpkin is very sweet already, or you can substitute some ground almonds.
1 kabocha or butternut squash (about 2 1/2 pounds or around a 1kg)
1 C Parmesan, grated
1 C crushed amaretti or ground toasted almonds
plenty of ground nutmeg
- Roast the squash whole in a 400F/200C degree oven, until it is very tender when pierced. Scoop out the flesh and mash it, either with a potato masher or in a blender. If you buy squash already peeled and cut, just roast it with a little bit of olive oil and salt until soft.
- Add the Parmesan, amaretti or almonds, a generous pinch of salt and plenty of nutmeg. If the squash seems a tad wet, skip the egg. If not, bind everything with one egg. Your filling is now ready.
- Cut the pasta in squares (or use a cookie cutter), place a tablespoon or so of filling in the center and either cover with another square or close the ravioli in a triangle shape. They can be frozen at this point and cooked from frozen when you are ready.
- Cook the ravioli in plenty of salted, boiling water until al dente and use a slotted spoon to scoop them out. Place them in a pan where you will have already melted some butter with sage, salt and pepper. Sautee them briefly, add Parmesan and serve.
My mother makes tortelloni (image at the top) instead of ravioli but, as they are harder to make, I would go with the ravioli shape if you have never made them before.