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Date-night Dinner to beat the Winter Doldrums

February 11, 2011

Now that we are knee deep in winter, literally (when will this now ever melt?), its easy to get caught up in chili’s, hearty stews and heavy meat dishes. Not that these aren’t delicious; there is just something so soothing about wrapping your fingers around a warm bowl and inhaling the fragrant steam. Sometimes though, it is nice to get away from these heavy, meat laden dishes and turn to something as equally soothing, but a little lighter. A few weeks ago, I put that homemade ricotta to use and made some delicious butternut squash ravioli with browned butter sauce. Yes, not much healthier than a beefy chili, but its nice to get some extra vegetables in your diet. Butternut squash doesn’t have to be for just fall. I made my own pasta (more to come), but these can be made using store-bought wonton wrappers, which would be equally delicious. The ravioli turned out amazing; rich pockets of creamy squash filling, lightly scented with nutmeg and cinnamon with a little heat from a pinch of cayenne. Browning a stick of butter completely transforms it into something nutty and rich, a perfect and easy sauce to heighten the squash flavor. This would be a wonderful date night meal; whoever has this plate placed in front of them will truly be impressed by your efforts.

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce

For the pasta
Use fresh pasta (recipe to come)

Package of Wonton wrappers (use the square kind)

For the Filling:
(this made a lot, I froze half of it)

1 butternut squash, peeled and cut in half with the seeds removed
3 cups of homemade ricotta (or the store bought stuff)
3/4 Cup of Parmesan cheese
A few dashes of cinnamon, nutmeg and cayenne pepper (do this to taste as you really don’t want these flavors to overwhelm the squash and ricotta)
A big pinch of salt and plenty of fresh cracked black pepper

For the sauce:
1 stick of unsalted butter

A small handful of fresh sage leaves
Toasted pine nuts
Black pepper

1. Peel and halve the butternut squash. Scoop out the seeds. Drizzle some olive oil over both halves and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes and flip half way through. You want the squash to be tender.

2.While you are waiting for your squash to roast, toast half a cup of pine nuts in a dry skillet over the stove. Be careful, these burn quickly. You want them to be a light golden brown.

3. Let your squash cool to warm and then using a fork, remove it from the outer layer and mash. Add the ricotta cheese and the spices. Mix together. It should be a light, creamy orange flavor. Mix in the grated parmesan cheese.

4. If using fresh pasta, roll it out thin into strips about 5 inches wide and place spoon fulls of the mixture an inch or so apart. Using your finger and a little dish of water, gently wet the areas around the filling where the pasta will meet. Fold the pasta over and gently push out all of the air bubbles. This is very important, if there are air bubbles, the ravioli will break open when its boiling. Cut into individual squares and then use a fork to seal the edges. If you are using wonton wrappers, place a smaller spoonful of the filling in the middle of the wrapper, wet the edges and fold into a triangle. Seal edges with a fork. Place finish ravioli on a lightly floured cookie sheet.

5. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a rolling boil. Once boiling, heat a large skillet on medium/low heat and add your butter. This goes quick, so you need to keep an eye on it. Drop your ravioli into the boiling water in batches- these will cook quickly and float to the top when ready. Once they are floating, remove with a slotted spoon and place on plate. Meanwhile, keep an eye on your butter, it burns quickly. It will first foam and then the foam will reside. Add your pine nuts and sage (the leaves will sizzle nicely) and give it another minute or too. The butter should be a golden brown with brown bits, the aroma is lovely and will help clue you in to when its ready. Spoon over cooked ravioli and top with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Serve with a mixed green salad.

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