I’m a big fan of blue cheese and think it goes best with something sweet (see my stilton and walnut scones with pear jam http://bit.ly/14587Np). This dish matches the sharp blue cheese with the savoury sweetness of butternut squash- set of by the salty sweetness of walnut butter.
Making pasta is really simple, it’s the rolling out of it that is ‘difficult’. With a pasta machine it is a really easy process of passing the dough through the machine until it is paper thin, it can also be done manually with a rolling pin (how I’ve done it this time) but it’s really quite hard work and, as I did, you will usually end up with a slightly thicker pasta.
Ingredients: (these quantities should make about 32 ravioli- 8 per person)
2 cups plain flour
Large butternut squash- about 2/3 the size of a 2 litre coke bottle
200g blue cheese
Salt and pepper
1 egg for sealing the ravioli
2 tablespoons salted butter
A handful of walnuts
First make your pasta, make a well from the flour on a flat surface or in a large bowl. Crack you eggs into the middle of the well and sprinkle over the salt. Using one hand, whisk the eggs gradually into the flour walls until a dough has formed. Knead the dough for about ten minutes on a floured surface until it is very elastic and very smooth to the touch. Cover the dough with cling film and pop in the fridge to rest whilst you make the filling.
Peel the butternut squash, cut in half then scoop out the seeds and stringy flesh from the centre of the squash, then chop into chunks about an inch square. Tumble the squash into a sauce pan and cover with boiling water, place on a high heat until the water boils then turn down the heat and simmer until the squash is tender. Drain the squash and leave to steam, for most of the moisture to evaporate away then mash with plenty of salt and pepper to a smooth puree.
Spread the puree out onto a large plate and set in the fridge to cool, spreading it in on a plate will allow it to cool faster. Now you want to roll out your pasta, if you have a machine pass the pasta dough through the largest setting a couple of times to flatten it out but so it’s still quite thick, fold the pasta in on its self, not in half but a third over a third over a third. Pass the pasta back through the thickest setting then repeat the folding technique, do this 5 or 6 times until the pasta is very, very smooth and soft. If you don’t have a machine follow the same instructions but using a rolling pin and manually flattening out the dough- it will take a lot long and be a lot harder- I shall be buying my USA pasta machine shortly!
Once you’ve completed the fold and roll stage, divide the pasta into four equal portions as its easier to work with in smaller portions. Using either your machine, reducing the thickness setting gradually, or your rolling machine, using your sheer determination and stamina, roll out the pasta until it is paper thin.
To make the ravioli mentally divide the pasta sheet in the half as you will have to fold one half on top of the other to make the parcels. On what will become the bottom sheet of your ravioli dollop teaspoon sized portions of butternut squash into the pasta sheet leaving an inch border between each portion. Press a penny sized piece of blue cheese on top of the squash and using a brush you’re your fingers paint some beaten egg around each of the squash/cheese portions. Now fold the ‘top’ half of the pasta sheet over the mounds of squash and cheese and using the outer edges of your hands, press the air out of the each of the parcels and firm press the sheets of pasta together. Cut the ravioli into separate pieces, either use a knife and cut into square or a cookie cutter for circles, leaving a centimetre boarder of pasta around the filling, use a fork to seal the edges and create a ridged patter around the edges. You can get some special ravioli cutters that cut and seal the parcels and ensure you get a uniform finish to your pasta, and even ravioli tray mould where you lay the pasta sheet over the tray, fill the indents, lay another sheet on top then press together- these have been added to my wish list!
Place your finished ravioli on to a sheet of greaseproof paper, you can freeze the ravioli but make sure you lay them out flat on a tray then cover them until they are frozen. Then you can pop the frozen pasta into a bag or box, by freezing them flat first they won’t stick together while freezing.
To make the walnut butter, finely chop the walnuts and stir into softened butter, this can be kept in the fridge until you need it.
Heat a large pan filled with salted water to a good, rolling boil. Drop your ravioli into the boiling water a cook for 2/3 minutes until the pasta are bobbing about on the surface of the water and are firm when you press a fork into the edge of a parcel.
Serve up about 8 parcels per ‘main meal’ portion with a scoop of walnut butter melted over the top.