Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends.
Like many people, I am enamored with the sublime simplicity of Italian cooking. A few basic ingredients seem magically transformed into a decadent feast. The idea of creating a beautiful meal out of eight components must seem like no feat at all to many Italians.
My husband and I recently vacationed around northern Italy, bringing back inspiration for many meals to come. Of course, the first thing I was excited to make was pasta—ravioli in particular. Moreover, I thought I’d make pasta with almost no extra equipment. You can certainly use a pasta maker and ravioli mold if you’d like (and your results will definitely be more uniformly shaped), but all you really need is a rolling pin and, if you’re feeling lazy about kneading dough, an electric mixer.
For the dough, I called on a recipe I’d learned in culinary school, and then I created a very simple filling out of ricotta and butternut squash (purchased already cubed for convenience). Browned butter is all you need for sauce; however, I love crispy sage leaves, so finishing the dish with them really takes it over the top for me.
My ravioli definitely showed handmade imperfections. Though not the wondrous creations of practiced hands that I had tried on vacation, they were deeply satisfying nonetheless. They do, however, require a bit of time. If you would like to reduce the effort, I suggest purchasing fresh lasagna noodles from a specialty store and cutting them to create the ravioli. You can also make the dough ahead of time; it will keep in the fridge for one or two days and can be stored in the freezer for two or three months
Though Italy was the inspiration here, I thought the rich flavors of the butternut squash and butter would work well with the bold fruit of New World wine options. I opted for a Chardonnay and Pinot Gris, both from California.
The Pinot Gris was refreshing, and its round fruit played nicely to the flavor of the squash. On the other hand, the creamy texture of the Chardonnay really brought out the buttery sauce, while its light touch of oak amplified the hint of nutmeg in the filling. If we’d been dining during a warmer time of year, I might have preferred the acidity in the Chenin Blanc. However, the Chardonnay brought an extra layer of luxuriousness to the meal, just what we were looking for in a fall pairing.
Pair with a lightly oaked New World Chardonnay such as Decoy Chardonnay Sonoma County 2016 (87 points, $20).
Prep time: 5 minutes
Approximate cooking time: 2 hours
Active time: 90 minutes
Approximate food costs: $16
Note: If you roll out the dough yourself, as I’ve done here, the recipe will likely yield fewer ravioli than if you use a pasta maker to create thinner sheets. You may need to adjust the amount of filling. Use 4 ounces of squash and 1/2 cup of ricotta if hand-rolling, or about 6 ounces of squash and 2/3 to 3/4 cup ricotta if using a pasta machine.
1. Pour the flour on a work surface. Form a well in the center of the flour, then put 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks, oil and a generous pinch of salt in the center of the well. (Reserve 1 egg yolk for later.) Beat the eggs and begin to incorporate the flour from the sides using a fork or your fingers.2. Once the ingredients are mixed together well, form the dough into a ball and knead for about 10 minutes by hand or for about 4 minutes using an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. At the end the dough should be smooth and pliable.
3. Cover ball of dough with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Allow the dough to rest for at least 1 hour to make it easier to work with.
4. Make the filling while the dough rests. Fit a pot with a steamer basket and fill it with a couple inches of water. Add the butternut squash pieces and cover with a lid. Bring water to a boil and cook until squash is very tender and can be easily mashed with a fork, approximately 15 to 20 minutes.
5. Transfer the squash to a bowl. Mash the pieces with a fork until smooth. Allow the squash to cool until it is lukewarm or cooler. Mix in the ricotta and season with nutmeg, plus salt and pepper to taste. Whisk the remaining egg yolk and combine with the mixture. Set aside.
6. Divide the pasta dough into 2 to 3 pieces. Sprinkle flour on a work surface and begin to roll out sheets with a rolling pin until very thin. Cut into strips approximately 4 inches by 2 inches. (The pasta might contract as it sits. You can lightly re-roll the strips to extend them.) Alternatively, use a pasta maker to roll out the sheets.
7. Lay out the strips of pasta and spoon about a tablespoon of filling onto one half of a strip. Fold the strip over to cover the filling and pinch closed. Use a fork to press the edges securely together. Repeat until all of the ravioli are formed. (Alternatively, use a ravioli mold for these steps if you happen to have one.) This will yield about 20 ravioli if the dough was rolled by hand. Sprinkle the ravioli lightly with flour to keep them from sticking together.
8. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a rolling boil. Add the ravioli and boil for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the ravioli float to the top. Transfer immediately to a colander to drain. Reserve about 1/4 cup of pasta water.
9. Melt the stick of butter in a pan or pot large enough to hold the ravioli. Once the butter starts to bubble, place the sage leaves in a single layer in the butter. Allow the sage leaves to fry for about a minute or until they begin to turn dark green and crispy. Transfer the sage leaves to a plate lined with a paper towel.
10. Allow the butter to begin to brown slightly, then add the ravioli and a little bit of pasta water to extend the butter if desired. Toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
11. Distribute the ravioli among 4 plates. Reserve several whole sage leaves. Lightly crumble up the rest and sprinkle onto the plated ravioli. Garnish with the remaining whole leaves and, if desired, season additionally with freshly ground pepper and top with a sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese. Serves 4.