Meatless Monday: Butternut Squash Ravioli with Shallot Herb Reduction

     Several years ago I made a butternut squash lasagna for dinner.  It was a lot of work.  Now that I think about it, I probably could have roasted the squash whole.  Instead I blindly followed the recipe which involved peeling the squash, chopping it into cubes, roasting, cooling, and finally pureeing the roasted squash.  As you may know, butternut squash is a very hard and dense vegetable when raw and I just about cut my fingers off trying to cube that thing.  Then came making the béchamel sauce, the ricotta filling, shredding two types of cheese, and assembling the whole thing.  It was labor intensive and the final dish really wasn't in my mind that spectacular.  To me it was too sweet for an entree, it tasted more like dessert, the sweetness of filling made with roasted caramelized squash intensified with each bite.  Overall the dish was weird.  All the labor it required, combined with the strange sweet cloying flavor mixed with ricotta and pasta, discouraged me from ever wanting to make it again.  It was one of those dishes that after trying one time, for me didn't deserve a repeat performance.
     The one exception to this was that Eric, my dear wonderful husband, loved it.  He couldn't get enough, of what to me, seemed like a disaster.  He has commented a few times since the lasagna incident that he wished I would make it again.  I could not believe it, nor did I ever want to make it again, despite his request.  However the fact that he loved it and requested I make it again did nag at me.  I remembered it from time to time.  One day while on a weekly shopping excursion, as I was in the frozen food section picking up a block of frozen spinach, I saw it.  I am referring to frozen butternut squash puree.  This was the first time I noticed it.  I was thrilled at the possibility of finding a quick and easy alternative to all the peeling, chopping and roasting, that I threw one package into my cart.  I planned on making a version of a butternut squash pasta dish that we both could love (or at least I could attempt to love).
     The problem with the first attempt at butternut squash + pasta was the amount of squash.  In the lasagna it was just overwhelming.  Plus the sweet roasted squash combined with ricotta, which also has a sweetness to it, made the whole dish for me overwhelmingly sweet.  I changed up the cheese in this dish for that reason adding pecorino romano and a soft Italian gorgonzola that complimented the butternut squash earthiness and added a depth of richness.  Wonton wrappers were the vehicle I choose to hold the filling.  With just 1 1/2 tsp of filling in each ravioli the sweetness of the squash was pleasant rather then overwhelming.  The wonton wrappers also make an excellent substitute to homemade pasta.  I have used them before for a spinach ricotta ravioli and they work wonderfully.  As far as the ravioli cooking method, I tried out two.  I fried one batch in a thin layer of olive oil, the other batch I poached in the shallot herb broth.  I must say I preferred the fried ravioli.  For one they looked more appealing with a toasted brown color and crispy exterior. The crispiness offered a great crunch that contrasted with the creamy interior.  I had a slight problem with the poached ones sticking in the pan and tearing, the cheesy squash filling oozing out.  Plus they were a light fleshy color, somewhat translucent, which did not look very appealing.  (For any Star Trek fans out there it reminded me a little of the Borg Queen's skin in First Contact)
     I am proud to say the dish was a hit.  Eric loved it and it satisfied his butternut squash pasta cravings.  For me it was earthy, herbaceous, cheesy, with a slight sweetness that I enjoyed.  Fresh thyme, sage and shallots added extra flavor and a herby warmth and freshness to the dish.  While the wonton wrappers and already prepared squash did cut down on some of the labor of the dish, it still took time to fill each ravioli so plan on making this dish when you have some time to spare.  Since I made this for the two of us, I only fried about 12 ravioli.  This recipe makes about 40 ravioli, so the remainder I placed layered, (after the ravioli were dried thoroughly), in a large square airtight container, separating each layer with plastic wrap.  I have not tried freezing them but since they did well in the fridge, I would guess they would do well in the freezer. Will I make this again, Yes!



Butternut Squash Ravioli with Shallot Herb Reduction

Recipe by Jordan
Ingredients
Directions
  1. Thaw butternut squash puree. Carefully drain off any extra liquid that may have separated during thawing.
  2. Combine puree, 1 cup pecorino roman cheese, and gorgonzola. (Either run this through a food processor to combine gorgonzola or mix well smashing cheese with fork to combine it throughout squash puree)
  3. Add thyme and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Add 1 1/2 tsp of filling to center of wonton wrapper.
  5. Brush edges of all 4 sides of wonton wrapper with a pastry brush that has been dipped in water (keep a small bowl of water handy to rewet brush and to tap off any excess water on brush before applying to wonton)
  6. Once all 4 sides are moistened, fold in half to form triangle. Starting where filling ends with index finger and thumb press out any air, working to the edges to seal up ravioli.
  7. Place on cookie sheet. Crimp the 2 ends of the triangle with fork to further seal edges. At this point transfer ravioli to cookie cooling rack.

  8. After crimping transfer to cookie cooling rack to dry. Even though these were on oiled waxed paper they stuck on the bottom.
    Trial and error later I learned the cookie cooling rack prevents sticking. 

  9. Continue to do this until all filling is used up.
  10. Allow wontons to dry for at least 1 hour (the cookie cooling rack allows them to dry on both sides and prevents sticking).
  11. In the meantime prepare broth. Heat a little olive oil in sauté pan, then add finely minced shallot sautéing until caramelized.
  12. Deglaze pan with 1 cup of vegetable stock, simmer for 1 minute, then reduce heat to low. Cook until liquid is reduced by 1/2. Season with salt, pepper and add torn sage leaves to broth.
  13. Heat approximately 1/4 inch olive oil or canola oil over medium high flame in 12 inch skillet.
  14. Working in batches place about 4 ravioli in hot oil and fry until golden brown and crispy on each side (watch this closely it only takes several seconds on each side).
  15. Transfer to paper towel. Continue cooking until desired amount of wontons are cooked.
  16. Place 4-6 wontons on plate and drizzle with shallot herb broth. Garnish with additional fresh sage leaves. Serve immediately.
Cooks tip:  If planning on refrigerating and using the next day, remove from refrigerator the day of cooking an hour prior to frying, place on cooling rack and allow to dry again.  The ravioli did get a little soft and moist in the refrigerator and this helps them keep their shape nicely when frying.









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