Last night, I threw a party. It went extremely well, except for the inevitable leftover food. Always better than not having enough, right? My good friend V had helped me plan, host, and clean up after this party. So when I went through the fridge a while after she left, I was totally surprised to see several big hunks of fancy cheese in my cheese drawer – I for sure thought she would have snagged those! You might be thinking I scored, but not really, because I was sort of at a loss about how to use it all up. This morning, I had a great idea – I called up my mom, and asked if she and my dad wanted to come over for cheese and crackers and whatever other snacks I could throw together. I’ve done a little redecorating since she had been over last, so I knew she would very much like to come visit. As the day went on, I thought, could I really just serve cheese and crackers? Well, then I remembered the flyer I had seen for Porterhouse steaks on sale, and I got a craving. I rarely make steak at home, but if there is a good cut for a good price, I can be convinced. I decided at that point I would just try to incorporate one of the leftover cheeses into the meal, and I really wanted that to be the Stilton cheese with cranberries. Since a steak can be perfectly delicious when simply grilled with a little salt and pepper, I knew I could put more effort into an accompanying dish. I had some roasted butternut squash in the fridge, so I decided to put together some butternut squash ravioli, and serve them with a creamy cranberry Stilton sauce.
I have a little confession to make, regarding making my own pasta. Two, actually. First of all I am completely intimidated at the idea of making it by hand. Second, I don’t understand why more people don’t use their stand mixer to make pasta dough. I see so many recipes and method descriptions that say to use a food processor. I’ve done it that way several times, but find it very finicky. One day I just decided to try the mixer, and honestly, I will never go back. Using the mixer to both combine and kneed the dough results in perfect texture with minimal effort. And of course, if you the have the roller attachment to make pasta sheets,you know how simple and quick it is to turn these out. My other must-have gadget is a ravioli mold. It’s fairly inexpensive, so I didn’t feel guilty buying it even though I rarely make homemade pasta. But when I do, it’s totally worth it!
To make the pasta, I used a basic recipe, but swapped out some of the white flour for whole wheat. To reduce the fat and cholesterol, I used egg substitute. The dough came together so nicely, rolled into tender yet sturdy sheets, and produced perfectly textured pasta. I also really recommend measuring flour by weight instead of volume when preparing pasta, since they ratio of dry to wet ingredients is crucial. If it’s off, you might spend a lot of time adjusting to get it right, and may not be happy with the final result.
For this dish, I decided to keep the ravioli filling very simple and just let the sweet butternut squash flavor really come through. I have mixed squash or pumpkin with various kinds of cheese for ravioli filling in the past, but in this case, I thought it best to leave alone since the ravioli were prepared with a tangy cheese sauce. Both flavors here were very detectable, producing a delicious contrast.
Butternut Squash Ravioli with Spinach and Creamy Stilton & Cranberry Sauce
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (188 grams)
1 cup AP flour (125 grams)
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup egg substitute
1/4 cup water
about 2 cups of roasted, pureed butternut squash, seasoned with salt and pepper
Creamy Stilton Sauce
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup minced shallot
1 cup dry white wine
1 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
4oz crumbled Stilton cheese with cranberries
pinch of salt and pepper
2 tbsp chopped parsley
about 3 cups fresh chopped spinach
To make the pasta combine the dry ingredients in a stand mixer and sift together with a paddle attachment. Add the oil, egg substitute, and water to the center of the bowl, and begin mixing slowly, just until the dough comes together. Switch to the dough hook and kneed for about 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Wrap the dough in a damp towel and let rest for 30-60 minutes.
Roll out pasta sheets and according to the directions of your pasta roller. Assemble ravioli and set aside.
To make the sauce, melt the butter and cook the shallots in the butter for a few minutes, until soft. Add the wine and bring to a boil; cook until reduced to about 1 tbsp of liquid. Add the flour and whisk everything together, cooking for 2-3 minutes. Slowly add the milk while whisking; once it is all combined, bring a boil and cook for about 1-2 minutes. Add the cheese gradually, stirring to melt. Season with salt and pepper. When all the cheese has been incorporated and the sauce is smooth, reduce the heat to a simmer and stir in the parsley.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the ravioli. Cook for about 5-6 minutes, adding the chopped spinach at the last minute or two. Drain and return to pot and gently fold in the Stilton sauce.
Makes 5-6 side dish servings.