Many of you are well-acquainted with the Italian gentleman whose handsome head pops up on many pages around this neighborhood. Always nattily dressed in dark suit and narrow tie, always raising his glass and leaving kind words to cheer us. He’s known to us as Chicago John. And he’s a legend in these parts.
You’ll find John cooking up a delicious Italian storm in the Bartolini Kitchen, every Wednesday. The smells that rise from his oven and bubbling pots will make you hungry. They’ll make you wish you could pop into his kitchen and pull up a chair and spread your napkin and toast the cook and lift your fork and stay long into the night! They might make you wish you’d grown up Italian, with family recipes handed down, and down again to you. For sure they’ll make you wish you could cook like John does. And that’s where this little journey began for me…
Only a handful of times in my life have I made pasta from scratch. I should be throttled for that! The man I married (who calls himself my grateful guinea pig and is such a good sport) is an enormous fan of pasta. Wrong word choice…he likes pasta, a Lot. So it was that when I spotted John’s series of posts on pasta – and then – Ravioli! – I knew I’d just discovered the Holy Grail – no question about it – this was D.i.n.n.e.r. – written in the Guinea Pig’s own Language of Love.
Now you understand, I’m not the one to learn pasta making from. No, no. I’d head over to John’s if I were you. Below is the recipe for the Bartolini’s pasta dough. It’s the one I used (Naturally!) I followed his expert guidance on how to roll and what dies to use as a novice raviol-ist. I prayed the rosary (ok, not exactly), asked John for one more encouraging word and then I dove right in. Fearless! (ok, not exactly.)
(You’ll be able to view this recipe better if you click on it.)
It all went quite well, just like John said it would. I had mechanical issues with my pasta roller and I think I’m tossing it (but not til I’ve found a replacement.)
I made a sweet & savory butternut squash filling…
Gently boiled them in salted water, drained them and then slid them into a simple sauce of browned butter, garlic & sage, thyme & parsley & toasted pecans. G.P. will probably chime in here and tell you about it, but if he’s still tied up licking fingers, I’ll tell you…
it was pretty fine!
Butternut Squash Ravioli with Toasted Pecans and Sage
1 butternut squash, about 2 pounds
Vegetable Oil – just a wee bit for brushing squash
Cayenne Pepper – a Dash
Freshly-grated Nutmeg – (about 5 passes over the grater – to taste)
Salt & Freshly-Ground Black Pepper
Freshly-Grated Parmesan – ½ cup
dried bread crumbs - ½ cup
Freshly-Made Pasta ala Bartolini (recipe above)
Brown Butter with Pecans & Sage
Butter - 4 to 6 Tablespoons, melted
Garlic – 1 medium to large clove
Chopped Fresh Sage Leaves – 2 Tablespoons
Chopped Parsley – 2 Tablespoons (divided)
Chopped Fresh Thyme – 2 teaspoons
Toasted Pecans, ½ cup coarsely chopped
Freshly Grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano (I prefer the latter here)
Prepare the filling: Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) Slice the squash in two, from top to bottom and scoop out the seeds. Brush the cut surface with vegetable oil and place cut-side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silpat. Bake until soft – about 40 minutes (though begin checking at 30.) Scoop out the flesh and measure 2 cups full. Drop it into a food processor (or mash well with a fork) blending with 2 Tablespoons butter. Season with a dash of cayenne, grated nutmeg, salt and pepper. Season to your own tastes. (It will not need to be fully seasoned with salt since the cheese will bring some of its own.) If the squash seems a bit too liquid-y you can dry it out by dropping it into a skillet on high heat for a few moment. Add bread crumbs and cheese. Set aside.