Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Great Pumpkin is REAL!

Now that you know how to make fresh pasta, what should you fill it with? Pumpkin, of course. But...not the way I did it. In this post I'll show you about roasting and preparing fresh pumpkin, but there's a couple of problems with the recipe I made:

1. I did not love it.
2. I don't have permission to reprint it.

But it all began so beautifully!

Pumpkins seem to have become a hot item in the last couple years, mostly for seasonal household decorating, but I think people are also starting to eat them more. I've been seeing all sorts of crazy beautiful squash and pumpkin varieties in the markets the last couple seasons, in all different shades of earth tones, plus blue and white--and it is nice to know people are growing them, even if they aren't getting eaten. I have never tried one myself, because they are super expensive and who knows how it's gonna turn out? The one above is just a plain sugar pumpkin.

(As a side note, I was just in China, and they eat a lot of pumpkin and squash there too. The kind they used where I was, in Kunming, in the southwest, is a big, beige, lumpy type that I have seen here sold as one of the decoratives. One of the things they do with it is make a spicy pickle and it is one of the tastiest things I have ever eaten. I don't even know how I would begin to describe it. Like squashy-spicy-Chinesey. Ha ha. I promise I'll do better when I have to write about it for work. But here it is.):

Anyway. For your ravioli, or most any pumpkin endeavor, the first thing to do is cut the sucker open, scoop out the seeds (which you should save and roast because they are so tasty) and place on a baking sheet.

I find this activity fun, but it does take awhile and you need a good amount of strength to hack it apart, and it is kinda messy and awkward. My dog enjoys eating the stringy stuff that I scoop out, which makes cleanup pretty easy...just drop it on the floor! (I know...sick and lazy. I know.)

Then you put it in the oven at like...oh let's say 350 or 375. I have gotten super lax about my oven temperatures in the last few years. If I am baking, I do what it says, and it's a good idea to have a thermometer in your oven if you aren't sure it's accurate, but for something like this...whatever. Just put it in and let it go for like, an hour. Check it now and again. When you can pierce it very easily with a knife, and it looks squishy, it is done. Remove from oven and let cool. Now, remove the skin. You can either scoop the flesh out with a spoon, or slice the skin off with a paring knife, or a combo. Toss in a food processor and blend away.

When blended and smooth, some people will force the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve. I did not do this.
This isn't the whole amount, just what was needed for my recipe. The rest I saved to make pumpkin gnocchi...another post. Some recipes will say to hang the pumpkin in a clean dishtowel or leave it to drain in a fine strainer. I did this, but barely any liquid came out. Not sure I would bother next time.

So the recipe I used is supposedly very traditional Italian, and uses "mostarda di cremona," which is a sweet-mustardy Italian fruit condiment. I couldn't find it so I got this. There's a lot of Italian mustard fruit condiments, as it turns out.

I also was instructed to use crushed amaretti cookies, Parmigiano-Reggiano and some other stuff. Basically, I thought it was way too sweet, although I imagine the mostarda is supposed to add some kind of tang. It did not. (Though it is tasty on its own, I'd eat it on a turkey sandwich.) But this is a traditional recipe, and if you look up pumpkin ravioli you will find others that use the fruit-mustard and/or the cookies. This Martha Stewart recipe uses the cookies.

If I were making this again, here is what I would do.

About 1 1/2 cups roasted, blended, pumpkin puree

Maybe half a cup or more of good quality, whole milk ricotta, liquid strained out

tons of Parmigiano or even Pecorino Romano. Actually I think the pecorino would be better.

Salt and lots of black pepper to taste.

A lot simpler. Pumpkin really does have a lot of flavor that doesn't need masking or accenting with cookies and fruit. And I just don't like it too sweet. It lacked dimension. Cheese could provide that.

So you fill the ravs as I went over the last post, and then boil them for about 3 minutes. You don't want to crowd them and may not want to do the whole batch at once. To check for doneness, I take one out with a slotted spoon and nip off a bit of one corner. The corners are double-ply dough, and should be pretty firm. If the corner is too soft, it means your dough around the filing is WAY too soft. So be careful and taste often.

For sauce, pretty much what I always do for any kind of ravioli is just butter and olive oil cooked together with chopped herbs like sage and rosemary. Those two would be perfect for this. I don't think I would use garlic. When you put so much effort into the filled pasta, you don't want to bury it in sauce. Make the sauce in a pot while the ravs cook, and put them in with the sauce using a slotted spoon as they finish cooking. Draining is a little rough on homemade ravioli and can break them.

Here is my finished product. There is perhaps no food that I am more likely to gorge on than my homemade ravioli. And that's why the too-sweet filling was so ANNOYING. I still stuffed my face anyway, but it really should have been better.

Homemade ravioli is a great Christmas/festive thing to make. Rolling pasta is fun to do with family and friends. If this were a cheesy food magazine article, I would also mention something like "Pumpkins are like a shot of sweet sunshine from the cold winter earth." And you would laugh at me and it would be hilarious. But so good!

1 comment:

  1. No comments? How is that possible? I had no intention of making anything with pumpkin, or even cooking for that matter, but still continued to read to the very end. Thanks! p.s. I found your blog by seeing something funny posted by you on a mutual friend's FB page. Ahhh, the power of the internet.