Because I’m a glutton for punishment (or perhaps just a glutton), I made the another recipe suggestion, lune with butter and sage, for this month’s ReadCookEat book club theme. The lune is basically homemade squash ravioli. The recipe initially calls for a pumpkin filling, but says that butternut or acorn squash are also acceptable. I chose to use butternut squash – the sugar pie pumpkins are not in season yet. When I looked at the recipe, I noticed that there was something missing – a recipe for the pasta itself. After some searching, I found it in the archives under the recipe for the asparagus ricotta ravioli. But I decided go with Buford’s suggestions in Heat instead.
I used three eggs and five yolks for one pound of flour (Buford says to use eight yolks, but I only had five) plus a little olive oil, instead of the four whole eggs suggested in the online recipe. It’s been a while, but I’ve made pasta at home before, and there are a few things that I’ve learned. I don’t have the ability yet to mix to eggs into the mound of flour on the countertop without compromising the integrity of the well. I can’t abide the idea of leaving a raw egg crust for any amount of time on my marble board, so I make the well in the flour while it’s in a bowl before turning it out to knead. It works out just fine.
When you knead, like kneading bread, put your back into it. It’ll save your arms. I know of friends who have rolled out their pasta by hand. I’m not that good – I just use a pasta roller. I mean, what can you expect? If it’s good enough for Mario, it’s good enough for me.
Rolling out the dough takes a bit of space. My kitchen is tiny, so I do it at the table. Also, the first time I made pasta by hand, I somehow thought that you were supposed to roll it though each of the 9 thickness settings (okay, maybe I was um, a little inebrieted). You don’t have to. Now I just roll it through the odd numbered settings. Also, make sure you guide the dough into the roller, and “catch” it as it comes out so that it won’t stretch out.
If you’re using some kind of cutout to punch out shapes, punch the dough out against a wooden board. Because the dough develops plenty of gluten from all the kneading and is rolled out quite thin, it gets pretty elastic-ky, so it can be tricky to punch out. I find that the sponginess of a wooden board is easier to work with than marble. Cutting the pasta into neat squares with a pizza wheel and a ruler instead just might save you some grief.
Per the recipe’s direction, I roasted the squash for the filling at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. It didn’t seem soft enough, so I let it roast for another 15 minutes. At this point, it seemed okay, but still not as soft as squash I’ve roasted in the past. I think that next time, I’ll roast it longer at a higher heat. I mashed it with a potato masher, and briefly considered putting it through the food processor, but decided to just let it be. I mixed with the cheese, nutmeg and balsamic, then piped it onto the cutouts. I’m not sure if I didn’t use enough filling per pasta, but I piped approximately 60 lune… the recipe says it makes 40. Previous experience has taught me that when sealing the pasta, you need to push out the air. Bubbles caught within the filling will expand when heated, which make your pasta fall apart. I was also worried that the seal wouldn’t “take”; instead of using water to seal the edges together (like when I make wontons or pot stickers), I was just pressing the pasta together. Also, because the filling was so wet, I kept having to dust the pasta with flour and turn them in order to prevent sticking. Amazingly, when I slid the pasta into the boiling water, none of them split! I’m not sure how that happened, but I was pretty happy with the results. The sauce doesn’t get any simpler – I ‘ll just add that you should be careful when adding the pasta water to the butter, itt’ll sizzle and splash something fierce! Also, be careful when grating the amaretti cookie over the pasta – it’s a lot more brittle than cheese and the whole thing will implode within your fingers if you treat it as such.
When I make pasta, I usually don’t make ravioli. Making the cutouts leaves a lot of scraps, and after all that kneading and rolling, I can’t bear to waste them (agnolotti wastes less), so I froze them all. I came home late tonight with a sack of my officemate’s homegrown heirloom tomatoes, so instead of picking up takeout, I threw it all together with some basil, parsley and parmagiano reggiano in what I have called a deconstructed pasta dish. Not pretty, but you can’t beat the ingredients.