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butternut squash ravioli with toasted pecans & sage

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…

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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.)

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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.)

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I made a sweet & savory butternut squash filling…

(recipe follows)SquashRavioli-2

Closed those little pillowy parcels up…SquashRavioli-3

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!

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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

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Freshly-Made Pasta ala Bartolini (recipe above)

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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.

Prepare your pasta sheets. You can use a pasta “die” – see John’s site for a variety. (I used a 2 inch, 2-part die for these.) If you prefer, you can use a round biscuit cutter to form your ravioli. Simply fill lightly, brush water around the perimeter, fold in half and crimp the edges. By drawing up the points you can form a slight crescent.

NOTE on filling the ravioli:   Here’s where I was more paranoid than necessary. I was afraid of over-filling the ravioli. They could have used a bit more filling and next time I’ll know. But what we really really don’t want is for all our lovely stuffing to drift out of the ravioli into the water. They will swell a bit during cooking.

In a skillet large enough to accommodate the ravioli, melt the butter. Add the slivers of garlic, the sage, 1 Tablespoon of the parsley, and the thyme. Cook over medium heat until the butter is slightly browned and gives off a nutty aroma.

Cook the ravioli in salted gently boiling water for 4 to 5 minutes. Drain.

Add the pecans to the skillet with the remaining parsley and then slide the raviolis in, single file. Cook for half a minute, then sprinkle (liberally) with parmesan or pecorino Romano.

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For a printed version of both recipes, click here.

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The filling for this pasta was adapted from one by Deborah Madison, in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

46 Comments Post a comment
  1. Congratulations! I knew you could do it, Spree, and just look at how well you did! Very impressive. You should be very proud of this dinner. Not only are the ravioli flawless but your filling of butternut squash is paired perfectly with that brown butter sauce. I’m sure had one happy GP seated at that dinner table. It’s hard not to be when fresh ravioli are being served to you.
    Thank you so much, Spree, for your kind words. It is you, though, that deserves all of the credit. All I did was show you some of the mechanics. These ravioli, with their incredible filling and sauce, are all your doing. And you don’t see yourself a pasta maker? Ha!
    Now I cannot wait to see what’s next.

    February 11, 2013
    • You were such an encourager through this process John! It wasn’t the “pasta” per se that had me a bit freaky – 😉 – but the whole thing about layering two together, filling with something delicious and not having it all fall apart, or fall so far short of expectations after a not so insignificant amount of work. This was a lesson for me (in more ways than one!) If we all just approached food with a bit more playfulness, there’d be more light and laughter in our homes! Thank you John so much for mentoring me through this…I would NOT have tried it if it weren’t for you!

      February 12, 2013
  2. Oh, spree!! You’ve done it, I’m so impressed.. I’ve looked long and hard at those pasta recipes and felt weak in the knees for fear of trying them. I know from experience Chicago John’s recipes are always so thorough and detailed you can’t ever go wrong, but the use of pasta dies (and the pasta making inself) always seemed so daunting. You make it look so easy.. and oh so pretty, I think this is quite an accomplishment! I see John is proud of you and he sure should be.. And I bet your GG is sneaking into the fridge for leftovers as we speak. Brava spree!!! What pasta is next I wonder?? xxx

    February 11, 2013
    • Oh Smidge, sweet of you, but John’s the one to be impressed by! His instructions (as you said) are always so clear, leaving no room for confusion. Doubt though we might (and we do!) it’s just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other til you have pillowy pastas on your plate! You can Absolutely do this…and the satisfaction in the end… well, {poof, poof} {blush, blush} you know! xxx

      February 12, 2013
  3. So Spree…. I am enormous huh? Cmon, pudgy – sure. Enormous? Only if I keep eating Chicago Johns ravioli. They were mighty good. Loved the pecan crumbles and sage garlic butter. Num.

    “Better ingredients, better pasta… Chicago John’s.”

    Oh and BTW smidge, no leftovers <:-/

    GGP

    February 11, 2013
    • Happy honey you liked these first raviolis…and (note to Smidge…I hid the leftovers!)

      February 12, 2013
  4. Gorgeous! Now you can start wandering through the colored and flavored variations in Madison’s book–we like the bright green pasta made with fresh spinach!

    February 11, 2013
    • I was thinking the very thing Emmy! 🙂

      February 12, 2013
  5. Looks and sounds beyond fabulous! Your gorgeous use of John’s spectacular pasta: a match made in culinary heaven. Congratulations!

    February 11, 2013
    • Thank you Kathryn Wish I could have served you a plate of it!

      February 12, 2013
  6. Yes, please! These look amazing, and your photography — the treatments, the staging, the how-do-you-do-it…incredible. I love the inspiration of Chicago John — and from all I see and hear, his positive demeanor and spirited encouragement do most certainly help impart courage — and then you took it and ran with it and look and sound to have made a mighty tasty meal for you and the GGP. Congrats!

    February 11, 2013
    • Thank you love! Wish you’d been here to share the feast! (And yes, you’ve described John’s positivity to a tee!) Thanks very much for your sweet words!:) xxx

      February 12, 2013
  7. Beautiful pictures, Antoinette. This is something i’ll be looking at rather than making. Although the French insist “il faut mettre la main a la pate”, I’m happy to let others make my ravioli. Love the look of it though:)

    February 12, 2013
    • Thank you Roger, and honestly, I can’t say I blame you. Though (for mechanical reasons and twinges of nervousness) this wasn’t “entirely” fun, I think next time will be.

      February 12, 2013
  8. settleandchase #

    These just look wonderful – gorgeous shots too – your posts are always such a breath of comfort and lightness, I love coming here..

    February 12, 2013
    • That is such a compliment to me! Thank you so very much!

      February 12, 2013
  9. Reblogged this on Curious Eaters.

    February 12, 2013
  10. A triumph Spree! They really do look perfect and I love the sound of that beautiful filling. I see that John is proud of you and I bet his ancestors are too….so glad it was such a success 🙂

    February 12, 2013
    • Oh thank you Tanya. They’d have Been perfect if I could have gotten them a little bit thinner and stuffed just a little bit fuller! John’s instructions were as clear and helpful as the light of day! ahhh what a sweet thought that his ancestors would be proud…I was perfectly content that HE would be! 🙂 x

      February 12, 2013
  11. This looks absolutely delicious! Your layout and photography are simply stunning as well. I can’t wait to try – and to send to my mother who is an avid lover of all things butternut squash.

    February 12, 2013
    • Such a kind compliment! Thank you very much! (Happy you stopped in!) We too are lovers of just about all things butternut and this left us smacking our lips & contentedly sighing. Hope your mum likes it!

      February 12, 2013
  12. Fantastic … and the photos are so stunning – wonderful, wonderful – and it looks so eatable *smile
    Good on you to manage this. My hat is off.

    February 12, 2013
    • Thanks so much for this Viveka! 🙂 Such kind words you leave me!

      February 21, 2013
      • You’re a very passionate cook. Wonderful to see.

        February 21, 2013
  13. OH yes, oh yes – that looks wonderful! What a cracking recipe – the colour has remained so vibrant. I like. IT’s funny – I was saying to Katherine earlier how much I wanted to make some stuffed pasta this weekend!

    February 12, 2013
  14. Aaah the Bartolini fan club !!! One day I will get round to making my own pasta and it will be John’s recipes I head for – plain and simple. What I’ll miss in the making is is wit and humour!
    Delicious recipe, just love the combination of squash and sage………

    February 12, 2013
    • I felt John’s wit and humor alongside me as i stuffed me pockets with squash, but the real thing would have been much preferred!

      February 13, 2013
  15. Wonderful photos. And Chicago John must be so proud!

    February 12, 2013
    • Thank you Michelle! One hopes to make her teacher proud! 🙂

      February 13, 2013
  16. I was so inspired by your photography that I rushed right out and purchased all the ingredients for butternut squash triangoli, although–full disclosure–in this case the ingredients had already been assembled by workers in Italy and then jetted into the refrigerated section at Trader Joe’s. Now, I’m sure they were not nearly as delicious as yours but they were the most convenient substitute I could find, given that as a senior citizen, I’m just too intimidated by the idea of learning how to make ravioli from scratch.

    February 12, 2013
    • I’m just very happy to have inspired you Joe! That sort of thing makes my day! 🙂

      February 13, 2013
  17. Spree, go directly to your nearest beautiful foodie magazine and ask for a job. Your photography and styling for this post is GORGEOUS! Makes me want to go and cook and take pictures right away. Would you consider an Australian apprentice??

    February 12, 2013
    • Brydie, you’re adorable…and you’re hired! Get thee-self to Oregon! 🙂 x

      February 13, 2013
  18. Utterly utterly soul food photographed with warmth and tenderness. Love the warm colour balance here suits it well.

    February 17, 2013
  19. This is quite a layout. Magazine quality. I know I’ve said that before and hate to over-use it but it’s true. The recipe looks like a tear-sheet.
    I’m not afraid to make pasta itself but funny enough for me it’s been the butternut squash filling. But this looks so light and well, delicious. Just. Beautiful.

    February 17, 2013
    • Wendy – wow. I appreciate your compliment so very much! (If you’re “over-using” the compliment, I hadn’t noticed, and if I had, I wouldn’t mind! 🙂 ) I wasn’t afraid of “pasta” per se either. A little nervous I guess when it comes to sharing my results with the world outside our own dining table. And (is this ridiculous?) I did kind of want John to know how well he’d taught me because he does such a stellar job! I was worried about the ravioli! Putting two sheets of pasta together, having them Stay together and not spill their lovely guts into the pot. The squash? Oh love, it’s so easy! And so good, honestly, do this! 🙂 Thank you again Wendy so much for such lovely words!

      February 21, 2013
  20. I’m so impressed with your beautiful ravioli and the amazing flavors you put together. Restaurant quality for sure! Gorgeous images. And having a mentor like John to help out, well, it almost makes me feel brave enough to attempt, although I’d have to get a pasta roller first. I’m not sure why I have such fear of pasta making…I sure don’t mind eating it! 🙂

    February 18, 2013
    • Betsy, thank you s.o. much! What a kind & gracious compliment! And yes, without John there’s NO way I would have endeavored to make ravioli … of all the pastas I can think of, that’d be the last! What a great and encouraging teacher he was though. I figured anything that’s as good as pasta, I’ve GOT to learn to make! (You do too, by the way! 🙂 )

      February 21, 2013
  21. Chicago John is my mentor for Italian cooking also, Spree. I read his post about ravioli and you’ve certainly done him justice. Your finished dish looks absolutely delicious, and when I saw that photo of the plump little raviolis I just wanted to pat them. They look adorable!

    February 19, 2013
    • John’s our go-to guy isn’t he Mar? On anything Italian (especially anything pasta) I’d go no where else! (Hoping not to offend anyone by that remark! 🙂 ) I love your comment about the plump raviolis – don’t they just look like they Want to be patted? Thanks again so much for your really kind compliment!

      February 21, 2013
  22. I absolutely cannot wait to try making this for myself, a great meat-free treat, and I’m sure the cayenne seasoning gives it a great flavour. Thanks for the idea 🙂

    February 22, 2013
  23. deb #

    What can I say but BRAVO!! One of my favorite dishes 🙂

    February 24, 2013
    • Ours too! Thank you Deb! 🙂

      February 25, 2013
  24. Kelly Loggan #

    For some reason my PC wouldn’t let me respond by “commenting” but I just want to say I love this! You write so well to make “food” feel like a “warm hearth and home”! You nourish those you love with such wonderful, healthy food with Heart Love through Hands. Blessings be yours and one day I will try this.

    On Mon, Feb 11, 2013 at 7:16 PM, cooking-spree

    April 20, 2013
  25. Hubby’s the guinea pig, ey? I’ve got one, too. Most baked goods must exit the premises b/c he can’t resist them.

    Your pasta looks gorgeous. Maybe I’ll give it a go myself. Thanks!

    July 31, 2013

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