1 - 1.5 hours
10 mins + 30 mins roasting time
Pumpkin is a very versatile ingredient in the autumn months. Roasted and served with a salty cheese; thrown into soups, stews and curries; baked into a sweet or savoury pie, there are myriad ways to turn this delightful golden vegetable into dinner. Blessed with a fudgy sweetness, pumpkin works best when combined with salty, nutty, crunchy ingredients, and for me there is no finer dish than the Italian classic, ravioli della zucca. Delicate pasta parcels stuffed with a sublime sweet medley of pumpkin and parmesan, scented gently with nutmeg and black pepper, then served – this is the best part – with a generous drizzle of brown butter infused with sage and lashings of parmesan cheese. It is one of my absolute favourite things to eat, and something I just have to order any time I’m in Italy. Every day, preferably.
Making this yourself is a bit of an effort, I won’t lie. The filling comes together very easily, but you do have to spend a while rolling out pasta using a pasta machine, cutting it into circles then pressing it around the filling. This takes time and patience, and I would definitely recommend you don’t attempt it without a large glass of wine within easy reach. Make sure you have everything to hand: your pasta dough, pasta machine, flour for rolling, pumpkin filling, circular cutters, brush and water, and floured non-stick baking parchment to place the finished ravioli on. Once you’ve got them ready, though, the cooking takes minutes (some of which are spent watching butter brown and turn into the most delicious-smelling thing possibly ever, before you chuck in some sage and make it absolutely divine). Put some good music on, supply yourself with wine, and this can be a very satisfying and rewarding kitchen task.
I promise this is worth the effort. The combination of sweet pumpkin, soft pasta and salty, nutty butter is utterly gorgeous. I add some toasted pine nuts for crunch, but this is a dish best kept simple. Some recipes add amaretti biscuits to the filling, but pumpkin is so sweet anyway that I avoid this and use breadcrumbs instead (use a good robust bread – I like sourdough). You can use either pumpkin or the more common butternut squash for the filling. Be generous with the butter, serve with lots of cheese (and wine), and enjoy what has to be one of the cleverest, most sensational dishes ever. Those Italians really know how to keep it simple but sublime.
For the pasta:
For the filling:
First, make the pasta dough. In a food processor, blitz the flour, egg, yolks, olive oil, salt and water briefly until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Tip it out onto a work surface and press into a ball, then knead briefly until you have a soft, not sticky dough. Put in a bowl, cover with a cloth and set aside.
Next, prepare the filling. Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Dice the pumpkin into 1-inch cubes. You can peel it if you like; I leave the skin on for texture when using something like butternut squash, but if it’s very thick then peel it off. Place in a roasting tin then drizzle with the olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Roast for about 30 minutes, until tender, then place in a bowl and leave to cool.
Mash the pumpkin roughly with a potato masher. Blitz the bread to crumbs in a food processor (you want about 3 tbsp), then add to the pumpkin along with the parmesan, nutmeg, egg yolk and salt. Taste to check the seasoning and adjust accordingly.
Divide the dough into four pieces. Shape one into a flat disc and dust with flour. Using a pasta machine with its rollers on the widest setting, roll the dough through. You will probably have a fairly uneven shape; fold any edges in and shape into something that resembles more of a rectangle, then feed through again. Once you have something vaguely rectangular, start reducing the roller size each time you roll it through, until it is long and thin enough to see through – you might want to cut the strip in half and keep rolling both bits once it gets a bit long. My pasta machine has 9 settings; I roll the dough to number 7 for ravioli. You should end up with long, thin strips.
Using a round cutter (I use a scone cutter), cut out circles of dough from the strips, trying to minimize wastage. Use a teaspoon to dot a small amount of filling in the centre – you’ll get the hang, through practice, of how much to put in without overfilling. Use a pastry brush to brush a little water round the edge of the filling, then carefully place another circle of dough on top and press it around to seal, trying to squeeze out any air so it’s tightly wrapped around the filling. Make sure it’s tightly sealed and there are no gaps. Place the finished ravioli on a floured sheet of non-stick baking parchment as you go. Repeat with the other pieces of dough; if you have lots of offcuts left over at the end, knead them together and use to make more ravioli.
When ready to cook, bring a large pan of water to the boil and add a pinch of salt. Meanwhile, put the butter in a saucepan and place over a medium heat, swirling around, until the butter starts to look foamy and brown specks form at the bottom. It should smell deliciously nutty. Throw in the sage and take off the heat. Drop the ravioli into the water and cook for 3 minutes, then carefully remove with a slotted spoon and place in a colander to drain. Divide between four plates, drizzle with the butter and sage leaves, sprinkle over the pine nuts and serve immediately, with parmesan and black pepper on the side.