A delicious, veggie main meal that won’t have you missing meat! I’ve been roasting butternut squash to this recipe for a long time. I first developed it as a vegetable recipe to feed to my twins when they were weaning, but I loved it so much myself it started creeping into our adult meals!
I use the roasted squash as it is as an accompaniment, it can be made into a spiced soup with the addition of a little milk and some paprika and rewarmed in a saucepan or – as here – a great filling for ravioli.
As part of the recipe, there are step-by-step instructions for preparing the pasta dough into filled ravioli.
You can prepare the squash a day before if you prefer.
A note on making your own pasta: it’s fun (although hard work) and for a lot of recipes fresh-made pasta is the bee’s knees. However, don’t be sniffy about dried pasta once you’ve made your own fresh. It’s quick, cheap and frankly the majority of recipes are actually better with dried pasta. Fresh pasta is not ‘better’ overall, just better in certain recipes and essential to make your own filled shapes.
I tend to make fresh pasta for filled shapes (pretty obvious this one), for when I want to do something really unusual like coloured pasta (spinach, tomato, beetroot, squash or squid ink etc) and for a rich version of things like carbonara when I want tagliatelli. I’m also driven by the shapes produced by my Mercato pasta machine – big sheets, tagiolini and fettucini (there are other attachments you can buy but this is enough for me, at least for now).
Dried pasta is great for everything else – which is the majority of pasta dishes! All oily or tomato type sauces and of course the tiny shapes like stellini for broths and soups.
Equipment – roasted butternut squash
- Vegetable peeler
- Very sharp heavy knife
- Large casserole with lid or other oven-proof container and a sheet of foil
- Potato masher
- Frying pan
- Kitchen towel
Equipment – ravioli
- Large bowl
- Rolling pin or pasta rolling machine
- Dough cutter
- Sharp knife
- Pastry brush
- Circular cookie cutter – quite a large one (I used a 9cm one) – or you can just cut it into squares
- Large saucepan
- Slotted spoon
Ingredients – squash
- I medium-large butternut squash
- Orange juice – 100ml
- Sea salt – large pinch
- Black pepper – freshly ground to taste
- Shallots – about two small round shallots or one banana shallot
Ingredients – pasta
For four people:
- ’00’ type flour (you can get this in any mid-sized supermarket in the baking aisle) – 200g*
- Semolina/durum wheat flour (again, this is usually available in a normal supermarket – go look for it in the world food aisle) – 100g*
- Medium eggs – 3
- * If you can’t get these, you can use regular plain flour – it makes acceptable pasta, although if you use 00 and semolina it will make a big difference. If you don’t find either in your supermarket (I’ve bought these in TESCO, ASDA and Sainsbury’s – apologies for those not in the UK, but of course I can only speak for where I live) you can get them online
Method – butternut squash
- Put the oven on to 200C fan / 220C conventional
- Halve and peel the butternut squash
- Scoop out the flesh and seeds from the hollows in both halves
- Chop the flesh into thick (1 cm) slices
- Arrange the sliced squash in the bottom of the oven-proof dish so that they are spread evenly
- Pour in the orange juice and sprinkle over the sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
- Cover with the lid or a sheet of foil and place in the centre of the oven for at least one hour, until the squash flesh is soft enough to be pressed with a fork
- While the squash is cooking, finely chop the shallots and fry gently with a little oil
- Remove when the shallots have become softened and glass-like and lay on a piece of kitchen towel to absorb excess oil
- Remove the squash from the oven and add the cooked shallots to the squash
- Mash with the potato masher – do not pour out any remaining orange juice as it should all be incorporated
- Leave to cool until you are ready to stuff the ravioli
Method – pasta
- In a large bowl swirl together the flours and make a well in the middle
- Crack in the eggs
- Mix it all together with the fork and bring it all together – when you can’t mix it any further with the fork, start to use your hand (my tip here is use only one had – leave the other ‘clean’)
- Bring the pasta dough together with your hand – I find that the dough naturally absorbs all the flour it needs – so if there is a little bit of flour left don’t worry
- Transfer the dough to a large flat surface – a dining table or a large kitchen counter top (my kitchen is tiny – I also go into my dining room!)
- You are aiming for a ‘strong but forgiving’ consistency of dough. I once read in a book years ago (sorry I can’t remember which one) that the dough should be the same to feel as the relaxed muscle in your forearm! It sounds weird, but actually it’s true – just try it! Relax your non-writing arm and poke your forearm just below your elbow. See what they mean?
I do believe the dough picks up the right amount of flour itself as you are gathering it together, but:
- if the dough feels too soft add a little more flour
- if the dough is too tough and dry add a few drops of water
- Knead the dough for anything up to 10 minutes – it should get to the point where it feels like tough elastic and gets very hard to knead. If you’re using a pasta machine you can stop before it gets really tough going, as by pass the dough through the machine at its lowest setting and then folding and passing through again (see instructions below) you continue the kneading process. Unfortunately if you’re rolling by hand you need to keep kneading!
- Now’s the time to set up your pasta machine (bolting it to the table/counter top) if you’re using it – or reach for the rolling pin
- Don’t add any more flour to the pasta – you’ll clog your machine (if using). Pasta correctly mixed is ‘clean’ and should only stick to itself (or a wet surface). However – there is a caveat to this if you are rolling using a rolling pin. See the instructions on rolling by hand
- Leave the pasta to settle and rest for a while somewhere cool – about 15 – 60 minutes. Wrap in cling film or cover with a tea towel to stop it getting a crust
- Using a machine:
- Cut the pasta into tennis-ball sized pieces – I find this is the easiest amount to roll into pieces for ravioli. If you’re a seasoned pasta making you may be comfortable with rolling more, but as I am writing this as a basic recipe I’ll stick with the easy amounts
- Set the machine to 0 (the largest setting) and pass the dough ball through.
- Fold the rolled dough in half and turn 90 degrees and pass it through again – don’t change the setting
- Fold and pass through three or four times – this relaxes the gluten forming in the dough and smooths its texture
- Now, turn the machine to the next setting (one increment smaller) and pass through. Turn the crank handle with one hand and capture the rolled dough with your other hand, drawing it out along the table. Make sure it lies flat
- Turn the machine up another notch and repeat – the pasta sheet will naturally get longer and longer (and a little wider) each time as it gets squeezed thinner. This makes it a bit more tricky to handle as you go along – to make it easier to crank with one hand and feed/capture the pasta with the other each time as you feed one end of the pasta in the roller, gently lay the rest of the pasta over the top of the machine draping it gently – it should get pulled through the machine as you turn the handle cleanly and smoothly (see below). This allows you to use your other hand to capture the pasta as it comes out and feed it down the table
- Keep repeating this until your pasta is very fine – on my Mercato machine I do ravioli to No. 6 (out of 10 settings), so whatever your setting is on your machine that is about three quarters of the very finest setting. You need it thin (as the edges of the ravioli of course will be double thickness as they are stuck together but it can’t be too thin or there is a risk of tearing and the filling could spill out during cooking later)
- Repeat for the rest of the dough and then lay all the sheets of pasta out together
- Using a rolling pin:
- I’ve only recently bought a pasta machine – I’ve been making pasta using a rolling pin for years. OK, I never made it not often as it IS a chore this way, but I’m living proof you can do it without a machine. However, the finished result is rougher, thicker and not so uniform. The toughest part is to roll the pasta finely – it really doesn’t want to thin out (the gluten wants to draw together) – you will have to keep going and apply force. Frankly I wish I’d bought a machine years ago – it’s been a revelation!
- Unlike using the machine, you will need to lightly flour your table – as you apply force with the rolling pin to squeeze the pasta flatter and wider you are effectively mashing it into the table and it will stick
- Chop the pasta dough up into manageable pieces – probably in half will be sufficient for a three-egg/300g dough
- Roll out as finely as you can – keep shifting the dough round by a quarter turn to stop it sticking and keep rolling until you are satisfied it’s as thin as you can get it. Don’t worry about a few tears if you have then – you can just avoid them when you cut the ravioli
- Repeat with the remaining dough
- Now go get your butternut squash
- Place teaspoons of the squash on the pasta sheets – leave a 10-12cm gap between the dollops of squash. Don’t overfill!
- Using the pastry brush, dip it in water and shake off the excess (you don’t want much water at all). Draw a circle with the damp brush all round the mini pile of squash
- Now, drape another sheet over the top of the squash and first pasta sheet.
- Gently with your finger tips, try to tamp down the top sheet onto the bottom and around the squash filling – try your best not to leave air gaps (the air will expand when cooking later and may burst the ravioli) and make a little tightly packed dome
- Once you’re satisfied each raviolo is sealed all the way round you can cut it out with the cutter, or use a sharp knife (or pastry wheel if you have one) to make a square
- Keep going until you’ve made enough ravioli – I think 4 – 5 is enough for each person as a main meal or three for a starter (you can freeze the remaining squash and pasta dough – or you can keep going and use it all and then freeze the uncooked ravioli – see my note at the end)
- Keep the ravioli to hand – next it’s the cooking stage!
One of the best, most simple way of serving this is to warm a few tablespoons of red pesto in a large frying pan or sauté pan with a little water (from the pasta water) and just sloosh the cooked ravioli around gently and briefly in this and then slide it all onto plates – and serve with a fresh green salad.
I haven’t given a recipe for a ragu here – just the pasta itself. In the photo above for this particular meal of this ravioli I made a soffritto base (finely diced onion, carrot, celery, garlic), fried this off, added a tin of chopped tomatoes, seasonings and then some chopped up Italian sausages. I sprinkled over
This sausage ragu does stop this recipe being vegetarian – however you can substitute the sausages for either courgette or mushrooms to keep it meat-free.
To cook the ravioli
- Bring a very large pan of water – which has been generously salted (don’t panic – there’s no salt in the pasta dough and also the pasta is bathed in the salt water only: it doesn’t absorb much of it) – to a simmering, gentle boil
- Using a slotted spoon, put the ravioli in the water – they will sink
- They will only take about three minutes to cook (you may want to do them in batches if you’ve made lots)
- When they’re done they will start to rise to the top of the water
- Take out with the slotted spoon – I actually find it’s handy to hold a sieve over the pan with one hand and feed each raviolo that I fish out with the slotted spoon into the sieve – that way they drip back into the pan
- Serve the pasta with whatever sauce you want – whether that’s a ragu or the simple red pesto sauce mentioned above
- Best eaten immediately – grate over some grana padano or parmesan, a grind of pepper and a sprinkle of salt (I used black sea salt, just because it looked fantastic against the pasta)
Note on freezing filled pasta
- Freeze the ravioli by lying it down on something flat that will fit in your freezer draw and make sure they do not touch each other
- You may then put them in a bag together later, once they are fully frozen (they won’t stick after they’ve frozen solid) so that they won’t then take up too much space
- No need to thaw – just pop them in a pan of simmering (not rapidly boiling water) and bring it slowly up to a full boil and cook for 1 – 2 minutes more than from fresh
I hope this has helped! If you try this ravioli please leave me a comment – I’d love to know what you think of it