Hi all, it’s Laura! I’ve been bad about posting this summer but while most of September has been warm, we finally had one of those glorious autumn days that makes me crave pasta, warm soups and stews and homemade bread. You’d think I was going into hibernation!
Making pasta is very meditative for me, but it’s not for everyone, and this dish could be pulled off as a great weeknight meal making a few simple changes. I say don’t sweat it, do what you want as much as you can. And I’ve added a few ideas for shortcuts below which will cut your time down to 45 minutes tops.
Butternut squash tortelli filling:
Roast a large butternut squash by splitting it down the middle, seeding it and placing it skin side up in a 350° F oven for about 40 minutes. I like to use parchment paper for this since cleanup is much easier.
Once the squash is nice and soft, scoop 1 cup of squash into a bowl, and once cooled, add an egg, 1 cup of finely grated Parmesan cheese, a handful of chopped sage, a grating of whole nutmeg (or you can use about 1/2 teaspoon of pre-grated), and a little salt and pepper. Mix this up well and refrigerate.
Pasta Dough and Tortelli
Every real Italian chef or Noni will likely tell you to dump your flour on the counter, make a well, crack your eggs into the well and pull in flour from the outside until you have all the flour incorporated into a bowl. I like to do this too, but if you’re tight on space and lacking a big counter, a large mixing bowl is fine to use, and it’s a little easier to clean up. So pick your pleasure!
Measure 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour onto your counter or into your bowl and make a well in the center. Crack 5 eggs in the middle and stir them up a little with a fork. Now begin to move the flour slowly into the eggs, until all the flour is incorporated.
Once your flour is loosely incorporated, knead the dough until it develops a nice sheen, and feels smooth. There is nothing better than manipulating such a simple combination of flour and eggs into a beautiful round of pasta dough.
Let your dough rest covered in the fridge for about an hour. Remove and then cut the dough in quarters. You will work with just one quarter of dough at a time while making sure to keep the rest well covered. Roll the dough out with your pasta roller or with a rolling pin as thinly as possible. Just remember, the thinner the pasta, the more skill it takes to shape. Trust me when I tell you shaping tortelli is not my strong suit, but they will taste fabulous anyway!
Once you have rolled our your dough, cut it into 3″ x 3″ squares. Break an egg into a small cup, and beat it with a fork. Using a pastry brush, moisten the corners of each square as you go, filling each with about 1/2 teaspoon of filling. Once you fold them into triangles and seal carefully, bring the two corners closer to each other so they puff up in the middle and place on a well floured surface or a silpat until time to cook.
I was inspired to make this sauce because of my love for Dave’s Butternut Gourmet Pasta Sauce. It’s delicious, so in additional to the option of buying a good butternut squash tortelli, tortellini or ravioli, this is another great weeknight hack!
Butternut Squash Marinara with Shallot:
This is a good time to put a large pot of water on the stove. Add a generous 2 tablespoons of salt and the make the sauce below while the water is coming to a boil so you can cook your tortellis a′ la minute.
Start by slicing 2 shallots very thinly and add to a small saucepan containing a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter. Cook the shallots on very low heat until they are soft, translucent and caramelized. Patience will pay off so plan for about 10 minutes for this step. Roughly chop about 5 more sage leaves and add it to the pan. Sauté for another minute
Now remember the squash you set aside? Add a cup of squash into the pan with the shallots and add 1 cup of crushed tomatoes (I like San Marzano best) and 2 teaspoons of salt. Stir this up and simmer for just a few minutes. Once it cools slightly, process until smooth.
Now it’s time to take out your beautiful pork belly. Slice up two thick slices (I like my slices to be about twice as thick as a bacon slice). Cut these into 1/4″ lardons and render down over low heat until crispy and browned. Remove from the pan to drain.
Once you’ve cooked your tortelli or other pasta, plate your dish. Put a little sauce on the plate, add 3 or 4 tortellis, and arrange the pork belly over the top. Chop up 4 amaretti cookies to garnish the plate. We have Giolitti Italian Deli in Annapolis, and were able to get the Bellino brand of cookies. They are delicious and a pleasant finish for a fall inspired pasta dish.
Now, it’s time to eat and relax. Serve this dish with a simple salad and perhaps a lovely baguette with a little olive oil. I would recommend a Chianti or Pinot Noir to round out the spicy fall flavors of this dish.