Hello Fall! Can you believe that the last time I was here I was roaring about tomatoes, and now we are solidly in the heart of autumn: the leaves outside my window are a riot of yellow, red and pale green, and they drift down like snow, to crisp and brown and pile up in the corners of the deck, every time the wind blows; the annual Pumpkin Patch has taken over the church parking lot in Ridgefield; the sky is bright blue (on the rare occasion, this year, that it’s not raining) and the air is crisp enough to dig those sweaters out of storage and put the flannel sheets back on the bed.
This is my favorite time of year: I love the crisp, cool weather, the smell of dead leaves, the annual spectacle of fall foliage that never fails to amaze me. As such, I’ve been out and about, enjoying the outdoors as much as possible over the last few weeks: long walks and hikes in Ward Pound Ridge; bike rides along the quiet back roads in my neighborhood, and just sitting on the deck with a glass of wine, watching the leaves drift down. All of this outdoor fun translates to a hearty appetite, but not a lot of patience for either cooking or blogging. The CSA ended a few weeks ago and I’ve been happy to let the larder get a little bare: I’ve currently got a few less-than-crisp carrots, a couple of slowly-browning limes, and not much else in the fridge, save the ever-present collection of jars.
One thing I did pick up at the farmer’s market a few weeks ago was a couple of sugar pumpkins: I’ll buy a few each time I see them, and then parcel them into meals all winter long. A good, farm-fresh pumpkin will stay fresh all winter and into spring, just hanging out at room temperature on your kitchen counter, waiting for the day when inspiration, or the need for pumpkin ravioli, strikes. I used a portion of one of my sugar pumpkins in an apple, pear & pumpkin preserve (recipe coming soon, I hope) and roasted the remainder for pumpkin purée. I also had some leftover cooked white beans hanging around, from making a version of this white bean & chicken chili (shared by Holmes on the Facebook page), so I got the idea for a savory pumpkin and white bean ravioli filling, livened up with what was in the fridge: leeks, fresh parsley and a bit of goat cheese.
The pumpkin filling here is truly savory: no cloying sweetness, no cinnamon & clove, just a pumpkiny richness, sharpened with leeks & garlic, mellowed with white beans and cheese. It goes quite nicely with the whole grain pasta dough, and a simple browned-butter sauce showcased the layered flavors of the ravioli perfectly. Since there is a minimal amount of cheese, these ravioli are surprisingly light in flavor and texture, yet the fiber-packed beans and whole grain flour make them quite satisfying. I should note that the filling recipe below makes a lot: you could easily cut the recipe in half, or even in quarters, and still have enough for one batch of ravioli. But the filling freezes quite well, and I know myself well enough to know that having “instant” ravioli filling in the freezer makes homemade ravioli that much more likely on any given night, so I included the full recipe here. Because a little bit of autumn in the depths of winter is never a bad thing!
Filling (enough for about 4 batches of ravioli; feel free to reduce the recipe if desired)
- 2 cups (16 oz) pumpkin purée (or 1, 15-oz can commercial pumpkin pack)
- 1 and 1/2 cups (9 oz) cooked white beans, rinsed (I used cellini beans from Rancho Gordo)
- 2 oz (about 1/3 cup) chèvre
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 medium leeks, washed well, trimmed of stem and dark green parts, sliced
- 3 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
- olive oil
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, coarsely choppped
- salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 9 oz (about 2 cups) whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- 3 – 6 tbsp water
- cornmeal, for sprinkling
- 1 egg, beaten, for wash
Browned Butter Sauce
- 4 tbsp butter (for prettiest presentation, use clarified butter or ghee)
- 2 tbsp fresh oregano leaves (or other fresh herb)
- pinch salt
- freshly ground pepper
- parmesan cheese, for serving
- To make filling, heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat until foam subsides. Sauté leeks and garlic, stirring frequently, until vegetables have softened, about 6 – 8 minutes. Add pumpkin, beans, chèvre, and sautéed vegetables to the bowl of a food processor. Turn the motor on, and drizzle olive oil into the feed tube as needed (I used about 2 tbsp) to achieve a smooth-flowing paste. Add parsley and process until smooth. Taste and season with salt & pepper. Refrigerate filling while you prepare the pasta.
- To make the pasta dough, mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. In a small bowl, beat the eggs. Make a well in the flour, add the eggs to the middle, and add 2 tbsp of the water. Fold to form a soft dough; add more water, 1 tbsp at a time, until a soft but not sticky dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface; cut dough in half and roll, turning and dusting with flour frequently, into a large rectangle, until the pasta is as thin as you can get it without tearing ( about 1/16th inch). If at any point the dough is ‘fighting’ you; seems to resist rolling out, or springs back, cover with a clean, damp kitchen towel and let it rest for 10 to 20 minutes, then resume rolling.
- To fill the ravioli, transfer one rolled rectangle to a work surface or large baking sheet sprinkled liberally with cornmeal. Roll out the other half of the dough. Dollop pumpkin filling evenly across one rectangle of dough, in 1-tbsp mounds placed about 1 inch apart. I recommend measuring the filling with a 1-tbsp measuring spoon to keep the ravioli a consistent size. Brush the edges around each mound of filling lightly with egg wash. Lay the other rectangle of dough gently over the ravioli mounds, pressing pasta dough down firmly on all sides. Cut out individual ravioli with a sharp knife, bench scraper or fluted pastry wheel. Transfer finished ravioli to the cornmeal-lined sheet. Allow to dry in open air for at least 15 minutes prior to cooking (this helps ravioli to keep their shape upon cooking).
- To cook the ravioli, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Slide in ravioli, one at a time, then replace the cover on the pot. Once water comes back to a full boil, remove cover. Ravioli are done when they are floating on the top of the water and dough is tender, about 2 – 3 minutes. Remove to a strainer using a skimmer or slotted spoon. Plate the ravioli quickly in order to avoid the pasta sticking.
- To make the sauce, heat butter in a small skillet over medium heat until foam subsides. Add pinch of salt (or use salted butter) and a few grinds of fresh black pepper. Cook slowly, over medium-low heat, until you see/smell the butter starting to brown. Add oregano leaves and quickly fry them for about 1 minute, until crisp but still green. Take sauce off of heat and spoon lightly over ravioli. Garnish with shaved parmesan and serve hot.
Yield: This amount of pasta makes about 18 large ravioli. The filling will make approximately 4 batches. The sauce serves two; recipe can easily be doubled or tripled.
- The pastry dough works well with 100% whole wheat pastry flour, but if all you have is a coarser grind (whole wheat bread flour, for instance) I recommend using at least 50% AP white flour, for easing in rolling and handling the dough, as well as preventing cracking and tearing of the dough when making & cooking the ravioli.
- This pumpkin filling is not your typical pumpkin ravioli, that tends to be sweet and often flavored with a standard “pumpkin pie” spice mix. This pumkin filling is quite savory: the leeks, garlic and tangy goat cheese add a depth & complexity to the filling that makes it less straight-up “pumpkin” and more “vegetable.” If you’d like a stronger pumpkin flavor, I recommend dialing back on the amount of vegetables and beans in order to let the pumpkin flavor dominate.
- These ravioli are both surprisingly light in flavor and heartily filling: three of them was a full meal for both Tai & I. Plate sparingly and re-heat the water for seconds if need be!
Cooked ravioli are best eaten fresh. Leftover uncooked ravioli can be quick-frozen, laid individually on a cornmeal-sprinkled plate, then transferred to a storage container or bag for up to 6 months. The filling freezes well and can be thawed & re-frozen without issue.