04 November 2012

Butternut Goat Cheese Ravioli

I can never get enough kitchen gadgets.  I rarely tenderize meat or ball a melon, but that doesn't mean there are not tools for these purposes in our kitchen drawers.  But our newest gadget has been getting quite a bit of use - the pasta roller.  We are churning out noodles faster than you could say Northern Italy.  After coming a tasty-looking recipe for butternut squash ravioli a few weeks ago, we invited a good friend over for dinner to wow with our new pasta skills.  Now our gentleman guest enjoyed the pasta, but stated that he was a bit underwhelmed by the filling.  He said that it was ok, but was certain that I could've made up something better.  Challenge accepted!

Ravioli are all about the filling.  You can cover any cheese filled noodle with marinara, but for me a truly fantastic ravioli shouldn't require a sauce.  The recipe called for ricotta to be mixed into the filling, which disappointed us all by detracting from the lovely, silky texture of the roasted butternut squash.  So I pitched this traditional cheese and went instead with arguably my all-time favorite - the illustrious goat cheese.  I had never tried goat cheese and butternut squash together before, and knew the combo would be one of two things:  1) a sublime success or 2) a colossal failure.  But the risk paid off and the ravioli were absolute divine.  The smooth, silky texture of the goat cheese matched that of the pureed butternut squash, for a lovely creamy filling that coats your mouth with all its flavor.  The zip of the goat cheese played up the sturdy sweetness of the squash perfectly.  

All that was needed to make this filling pop were some fresh herbs and dried cranberries.  Though sage is the herb typically paired with squash, I opted for thyme.  Why, you may ask?  In all honesty, I had fresh thyme and not sage.  But I was happy with the result, and found change to the flavor profile quite enjoyable.  Next time, I'll try sage and see which I prefer.  But I will always, always include the dried cranberries in this filling.  They are a wonderful, tart pop of intense fruity flavor and a great textural augmentation.  They also make for a lovely presentation when sprinkled over the dish.

Now as for the pasta...this was a total fluke.  I'd played around with several different recipes but thought I'd try the seeming easy one that came with my Kitchen Aid mixer.  It was a total flop, way too dry and looking like gunk....until I added an extra egg white.  Then boom!  Magic in a bowl.  Extra high in protein and made with 100% whole wheat flour, this is a pasta you feel about good eating.  I'll write it out below, but feel free to use your favorite recipe in lieu of my fabulous (but delicious) mistake.

So pretty and festive!  With the red and green, it looks like a Christmas dish.

If you have a favorite light butter sauce, feel free to throw it on top.  But honestly, it finished dish doesn't need it.  The filling is wonderful on its own, we felt that adding a sauce would just detract from the goodness inside the ravioli.  Therefore, we kept things simple with a light drizzling of melted butter, just enough so that they wouldn't stick to one another.  Keep it easy, and keep it good.  Challenge accomplished! 

Butternut Goat Cheese Ravioli (4-5 servings)
  • 1 batch Whole Wheat Egg Noodles (below) 
  • 1/2 butternut squash 
  • 1/2 c goat cheese
  • 1 tbs fresh thyme, divided
  • 1/6 tsp salt
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • 1/2 c dried cranberries, divided
  • 1 tbs melted butter
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and spray a baking sheet with non-stick.  Peel and dice your butternut squash.  Distribute in an single, even layer over the baking sheet and place in the oven.  Roast for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the squash is fragrant and tender when pierced with a fork.  Remove from the oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes.  Transfer the squash to a food processor and blend until smooth.  For this recipe, you need one cup of the squash.  The rest can be saved in the refrigerator for about a week or frozen and thawed for later use.

To make the filling, transfer one cup of the pureed butternut squash in a medium bowl.  Add the goat cheese and stir together until smooth.  Add 2 teaspoons of the thyme along with all the salt, pepper and 1/3 cup of the dried cranberries.  Mix together until seasonings are evenly distributed, adding a teaspoon of milk if the mixture is a bit dry. (Filling can be made a day ahead and stored in an air-tight container.)

Roll your pasta into thin sheets the full width of your pasta roller.  With a tablespoon as your measure, scoop the filling onto the rolled pasta.  You will want to use an even spoonful so that the raviolis are not overfilled.  Place the spoonfuls about 1 inch apart down the length of the one side of the pasta.  Lightly brush the pasta area around each ball of filling with water (to ensure a good seal).  Fold the sheet of pasta over the filling, then lightly press each filling ball to flatten slightly.  Seal the pasta on all sides of the filling and cut into uniform size with a knife or ravioli cutter.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Cook ravioli for about 4-6 minutes, until the pasta is cooked to your liking (raviolis will float because of the air inside of them).  Remove to colander and drain of excess water, then transfer to a serving plate.  Drizzle with the melted butter and and garnish with the remaining teaspoon of thyme and dried cranberries.  Serve immediately with pride.

Accidental Whole Wheat Egg Noodles 
  • 1 3/4 c whole wheat flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg white
  • water (as needed)
Sift the flour into a large bowl.  Create a well in the center and add in the eggs, egg white and 1 tablespoon of water.  Break the yolks with a fork and whisk together until well combined, adding more water as necessary.  Using a dough hook, kneed on the lowest speed for 2 minutes until smooth and elastic, but no longer sticky.  Alternatively, you can kneed by hand for 5 minutes on a counter, then transfer back to the bowl.  

Cover the dough with a dry towel and let rest for 15 minutes before rolling.  To store, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, then place in a Ziplock bag.  The dough will keep for 3-4 days in the refrigerator or several months in the freezer.

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