Sunday, November 29, 2009

The hours and its rewards

Yesterday we enlisted the entire family for making pasta and having dinner together. Ravioli was on the menu. The hubby and I planned on making a ricotta ravioli with cherry tomato sauce and butternut squash ravioli with brown butter chestnut sauce.

First up, the hubs and resident dough-maker made a triple batch of pasta. After the dough rested we were ready to roll.

Jean, Joe's mom, made the ricotta filling. She's a pro and everything she makes is delicious. My favorite of her dishes is her lasagna, chicken cutlets and peach pie. Mmmmmm. Earlier in the morning I made the butternut filling.

For making the ravioli we used the assembly line method and employed Andre and Tyler, our nephews.

The hubby was at the pasta maker and impressed us with his work.

Tyler and Andre took turns either cutting out the pasta or filling the pasta. My job as the line supervisor was to help in maximizing cutting and filling. The boys were very excited about making pasta and were excellent sous chefs. They took their job very seriously and were a tremendous help. We were making ravioli for two and a half hours. Yeah, seriously. We were having fourteen people for dinner.

After the ravioli were filled the boys had a turn at the pasta machine making fettuccine.

It was a blur of activity in the kitchen for hours. After the pasta was finished I put Brussels sprouts with Pancetta in the oven to roast. Then it was time to make sauce and get some water boiling.

This is the butter getting brown and infused with fresh sage.

The hubby was in charge of the cherry tomato sauce.

Here's the whole menu:

Ricotta Ravioli with Cherry Tomato Sauce
Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter Chestnut Cream Sauce
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta
Escarole with Pinenuts
Green Salad

Cannoli & Brownies

The hubby and I started with the ricotta ravioli. Everything was made in small batches so two or three people were served at a time. Eventually everyone was served and we started the butternut ravioli. We were able to taste everything too, but while standing up and manning the stove. The ricotta filling was light and fresh with bright parsley inside the pasta. The cherry tomato sauce was simple and sweet. Delish! My first bite of the butternut squash ravioli just stopped me in my tracks. It was outta sight. The sweetness of the squash was beautiful against the silky cream sauce that had a hint of sage and the bite of chestnut. Against all this creaminess you would taste a high note of the orange zest. Really it may be one of the best concoctions I have ever made, if I do say so myself. The bitterness of the escarole and the smokiness of the Brussels sprouts made them the perfect vegetables to balance out the meal.

For dessert, my mom baked yummy brownies with chocolate chips and walnuts. Earlier in the afternoon Jean filled cannoli shells with her homemade filling and they were a not too sweet way to end an incredible meal. I wish I had more pictures of the finished products, but to be honest it's hard to be a maker and a picture taker at the same time. This applies doubly when there is eating involved, but I did my best for a person who was cooking all day long.

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter Chestnut Cream

1 butternut squash
¼ cup marscapone
1 tablespoon orange zest
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 Tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut squash in half and scrape out seeds. Place cut side down in roasting pan. Cook in oven until soft, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

Scoop out flesh into the food processor. Puree squash until smooth, then spread on baking sheet and return to 400 degree oven to dry, about 8 minutes. The consistency will be like mashed potatoes.

Scrape squash into large mixing bowl. Mix in marscapone, orange zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, and Parmesan. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cover and refrigerate for four hours or up to 2 days.

To fill Ravioli: Lay out a sheet of pasta dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut into circles with a 3 ½-inch cookie cutter. Put 1 tablespoon squash filling in the center of half the rounds using a small spoon. Leave a 1/2-inch border all around the filling. Moisten borders with water and top with remaining rounds of dough. Press all the air out and seal firmly by pressing all around with fingertips. Lay raviolis out to dry on a lightly floured board or baking sheet and lightly flour the tops. Repeat until you run out of dough and/or filling. To cook, boil in lightly salted water until tender, about 3 minutes.

Uncooked, filled raviolis may be used immediately or frozen for 2 months. Lay them out on sheet pans and place in freezer until frozen. Transfer to plastic bag.

Brown Butter Chestnut Cream Sauce

2 sticks butter
8 sage leaves
¼ cup chestnuts, crumbled
¼ cup heavy cream

Over medium-high heat cook butter with sage leaves. When butter browns remove sage leaves. Add chestnuts and heavy cream. Bring to boil and then turn down to simmer. Whisk sauce together while simmering about 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Serve over pasta.

Is this what it looked like at your house this weekend?

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