16 January 2013

Pumpkin ravioli - made from scratch

A few years ago we were vegetarians. That lasted about eight years but ended when Hanno wanted to eat meat again and it became so difficult to get genuine vegetarian meals when I was travelling for work. In the bush here vegetarian = a boiled egg salad if you were lucky and hot chips if you weren't. When I started eating meat again, I felt better for it, although I regret the lives lost to feed me and if I do waste food, I feel real shame when I waste meat. We still eat vegetarian meals, still enjoy them but I feel our health is better when we combine a small number of meat meals with vegetarian ones or reduce the meat portion of the meal.

I know it's difficult if you're cooking for people who feel they must have meat and nothing else will do but I would suggest you try one vegetarian meal each week and see how that goes. If you can't successfully introduce one vegetarian meal a week, you may get away with something like this meal, which is substantial and filling, to which you add a hint of meat (bacon or chorizo) to the sauce or the filling.

This is what we had for dinner last night - roast pumpkin ravioli - completely home made, of course, and made without a pasta maker.

FILLING - enough for two
¼ small japanese pumpkin or ½ small butternut - chop into small pieces and roast in a hot oven till brown
1 garlic clove - roast this, in the skin, with the pumpkin
chilli (optional)
salt and pepper
½ cup fresh breadcrumbs - made from stale bread
½ cup grated cheese - I used Mersey Valley, a very sharp cheese, you could also use parmesan - it needs to have a lot of flavour
thyme, parsley or chives, chopped (optional)

When the pumkin is cooked and cool, put it in a bowl and mash it. Squeeze the garlic out of the skin and add it to the pumpkin. Add all the other ingredients and let it sit.

PASTA - I only used half and froze the rest
2 cups pasta flour or 000 flour - you can buy this at the supermarket. If you can't find it, use plain flour.
4 eggs
½  teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
a small amount of water to add teaspoon by teaspoon if the pasta is too dry

I made mine in the bread maker. Just put all the ingredients in and knead for 10 minutes. Take the dough out, flatten it a little, cover in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge to relax for 30 minutes. I used half the dough for this and have half in the freezer. I'll make a thick strips pasta with homemade spicy tomato sauce later in the week.

Use plain flour is you don't have 000 flour.
Kneading the pasta in the bread maker is the easiest way to do it. If you make it by hand, make a well in the centre of the flour, add everything to the well and slowly start incorporating the flour into the wet centre. When it's all mixed in, knead for 8 - 10 minutes.
When you roll the dough out, don't use too much flour on the bench - it will make the pasta tough.
The ravioli is cooked when it rises again in the boiling water.

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water. When they are added to the pot, they'll sink. When they rise to the top again, they'll be cooked. That will take about 5 minutes, depending on how many you have in the pot.

Generally I have a tomato-based sauce with pasta but not with pumpkin. I don't think they go together well. You could make a coconut cream and chilli sauce. Just open a tin of coconut cream, put it in a pot, add salt, pepper and chilli sauce or flakes and stir. You could also do a cream herb sauce, using the same herbs you used in the ravioli in the sauce.
If you have filling left over, like I did, you can make this: place the extra filling in a saucepan, add half cup of cream, half cup of water and stir. You'll have to use your common sense for this. If it's too thick, add more water, if you don't have much filling, add more cream and less water. You could also use milk, not cream and water. 

To make up the ravioli, divide the pasta up into smaller portions because it's easier to handle that way. I divided mine in two and froze half, then divided the remainder in two. Roll the pasta out with your rolling pin until it's as thin as shop bought pasta. Try to roll it into a circle or a rectangle shape - it's easier to cut. Grab a scone cutter or a large glass and cut the round shapes for the ravioli. 

To fill the ravioli: in the middle of each shape, place a small teaspoon full of the filling. Pick up the shape, fold the pasta over the filling and crimp the edges, pressing them together firmly so no filling escapes while they're cooking.

If you want to make this ahead of time, lay the filled ravioli on a baking sheet in the fridge. Make sure the pasta isn't touching because it will stick. Make the sauce up and keep it in the fridge. When you make it up, all you'll have to do is to cook the ravioli in boiling water and warm the sauce.

Now that we've eaten this, I'd change two things. I'd add herbs to the sauce, or a sprinkling of herbs over the dish at the end, because it looked too bland. I would also make a side salad to have with it. It was delicious though. Hanno said: This is good! And after another mouthful: This is VERY good!

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