Hallowe’en, All Hallow’s Eve, Samhain….whatever you call it, it spells PUMPKINS, carved ones to be precise (or as the Americans call them – Jack O’Lanterns). There are many subtle variants to the legend of why precisely we carve ghoulish faces into squashes at this time of year (apparently the Irish traditionally use turnips or swedes instead) but ultimately the idea is to scare bad spirits away. Seems sensible enough to me, and I always loved the slightly gory feel of tearing out massive handfuls of fibre and seed from the pumpkin’s interior!
Many many years ago (2005 to be precise), when blogging was still quite niche rather than the first resort of any self-confessed ‘foodie’, Elise over at Simply Recipes ran a competition for the most creative way of using up the off-cuts from the pumpkin carving, and I won! With this picture no less:
Yes, really; hard to imagine that winning now isn’t it? These were the days before every blogger taken seriously had a digital SLR, home studio and props cupboard!
Anyhoo, as you can see from the first photo, I’ve reshot (though it’s still nothing Foodgawker or Tastespotting would consider acceptable), and have tweaked the recipe a bit over the years, omitting the pumpkin seeds (I like to dry-fry them with salt & chilli and serve them as pre-dinner snacks), and replacing the creamy sauce with a simpler sage butter and some fried amaretti breadcrumbs. So here at long last is my reprise of my favourite Hallowe’en recipe, reinvented for 2013….
Pumpkin and amaretti ravioli with sage butter and toasted Amaretti crumbs
These ravioli are gloriously sweet from the slow-roasting of the pumpkin flesh, with a hint of ‘otherness’ from the amaretti biscuits. You need a generous hand with the salt and parmesan to ensure the dish keeps on the right side of the ‘savoury’ line. I sometimes serve this with a blue cheese sauce instead, and though much richer, the tang of the blue cheese contrasts wonderfully with the pumpkin and amaretti flavours.
For the filling
750g pumpkin offcuts (or 1 small ‘onion’ squash)
4 fat cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 tbsp olive oil
2 amaretti biscuits, crushed finely
50g Parmesan, grated finely
For the pasta dough
275g ’00’ pasta flour
2 medium eggs + 3 egg yolks
pinch of powdered saffron
1 tbsp olive oil
Handful of small sage leaves
2 amaretti biscuits, crushed finely
Handful of breadcrumbs
Cut your squash into wedges (removing the seeds), toss with the oil and some salt and pepper, plus the unpeeled garlic cloves, and roast at 200˚C/Gas 6 for 40-50 mins until tender. If using smaller offcuts from pumpkin carving you may need to cover them with foil part way through cooking to stop them scorching before they are soft. Scrape off the pumpkin flesh from the skins, squeeze the garlic from its papery coating and mash both together roughly with a fork. If you have time, pour into a sieve and leave to drain overnight (this helps stops the filling being too moist and bursting out of the finished ravioli, but is definitely not essential). Mix the drained pumpkin flesh with the Parmesan, amaretti, and plenty of seasoning. Taste to check you’ve got the balance right; it may need more pepper and salt than you think to contrast with the sweetness of the pumpkin. Set aside to cool completely.
Put the all the pasta ingredients into a food processor and blend until it looks somewhat like clumpy breadcrumbs. You may need to turn it off and scrape down the sides with a spatula a couple of times to make sure the tiny amount of saffron gets well blended in. Turn it out onto a floured surface and squeeze together to form a ball. Knead the dough as if it were bread – stretching it out with the heel of your hand and bringing it back together, turn it and repeat. Do this for as long as it takes to make the pasta tender and flexible for rolling – think of it as a form of therapy and gentle exercise! When the dough is plump and smooth wrap it in clingfilm and leave it to rest for 30 minutes or put it in the fridge (still wrapped) overnight.
Divide the pasta into four, keep the reserve ones wrapped, and roll the pasta out thinly with a rolling-pin or (even better) a pasta machine into long oblongs. Place generous spoonfuls of filling, spaced evenly, along two of the sheets. Brush a little water around the edges of the dough and between the dollops of pumpkin mixture and carefully place another sheet on top, patting it down gently to force the air out. Cut each raviol0 out with a sharp knife or cutter and press the edges together firmly but carefully to seal them. Repeat with the remaining pasta dough and pumpkin mix. When they are all ready, they just need couple of minutes in boiling water.
Whilst the ravioli are boiling, toast the breadcrumbs and amaretti crumbs in a dry pan briefly until crisp, then remove to a plate. Melt the butter in the same plan, add the sage leaves and allow the butter to brown and the sage to crisp. When you have the perfect beurre noisette add a splash of the pasta water to arrest the cooking. Drizzle the cooked and drained ravioli with plenty of the butter and sage, scatter over the crumbs and finish with shavings of parmesan. Happy Hallowe’en!