If you look in the freezer section of your local supermarket you will most likely find bags of frozen "ravioli". I would guess that you would now be presented with two choices; meat, or spinach and ricotta. While these are two traditional variations on the fabulous and famous Italian dish of ravioli, the only way to try the other amazing types is to make your own. There are dozens of ravioli fillings, all typical of the region from which they originated. In Piedmont, they are called agnolotti and are filled with sausage, chicken and spinach. In Sardinia they are known as culingiones and are filled with chard, nutmeg and eggs. Yet another Sardinian variant ravioli fritti sardi con miele is sweet, filled with fresh pecorino cheese and honey, then crisply fried.
This wonderful pumpkin ravioli is a specialty of the Lombardy region, as indicated by the inclusion of mustard fruits in the recipe. Mustard fruits, or mostarda di Cremona are a delicacy made in the city of Cremona. Cherries, pears, figs, apricots and other fruits are steeped in heavy sugar syrup that has been infused with mustard essence. The flavour is a wonderful paradox; the dense sweetness of the candied fruits, mingling with a pungently hot mustard flavour. It is a totally unique ingredient. Amaretti biscuits are a sweet almond based treat that is popular throughout Italy. They are crumbled through the mixture to add a little texture and a further depth of flavour.
Finally there is the pumpkin, roasted until it is sweet and caramelised, yet this is a savoury dish. At first glance this recipe may seem quite odd, but the flavours mingle and harmonize into a single entity that tastes almost medieval. This is because the paring of sweet, savoury and spice was quite common several hundreds of years ago, so making this dish is not only culinary adventure, it is a bit of a history lesson as well.
I will include two methods of making this dish; the first is the full deal, making the pasta yourself. But if you feel this is beyond your kitchen skills, don't feel left out. I will give a second cheaters method that while totally unauthentic, does not require a pasta machine.
500 gm (1 lb) pumpkin
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 Tbs olive oil
50 gm (2 oz) mustard fruits¹, seeds removed and cut into small dice
4 Amaretti biscuits¹, crumbled
3 Tbs (1/4 cup) Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 nutmeg, grated (or 1 tsp ground nutmeg)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 quantity pasta dough
1 packet wonton wrappers
Preheat your oven to 200° C (390° F). Cut the skin away from the pumpkin and remove the seeds. Cut the pumpkin into rough 2 cm cubes and place in a roasting tray with the garlic, oil and plenty of salt and pepper. Toss well to combine and cover with aluminium foil. Place in the oven and roast for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir again. Place the pumpkin back in the oven, this time uncovered and roast for a further 15 minutes to give the pumpkin a little colour. Do not let the pumpkin burn, or it will taste bitter.
Take the pumpkin out and allow it to cool down. Drain away any excess oil and add the mustard fruits, amaretti and Parmesan. Mix well with a large spoon and crush the pumpkin a little. You are looking for a roughly textured paste. Taste for salt and pepper.
Make a pasta dough, then roll it out following the directions in this node. Beat the egg with a little water and salt to make an egg wash that will seal the ravioli. Roll 1/3 of the pasta out to the thinnest setting on your pasta machine. Flour a workbench well and lay out the pasta sheet. Place 1 Tbs of pumpkin mix along the pasta sheet, 1/3 of the way in and at 5 cm intervals, like this;
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This will ensure that once the pasta sheet is folded over, the pumpkin will be in the centre of the ravioli, not at the side.
Using a pastry brush, paint the egg onto the pasta around each piece of pumpkin mixture. Fold over the top edge to enclose the parcels and press down to expel any air pockets. Using a sharp knife or a serrated pasta cutting wheel, cut out the individual raviolo. Continue until all the mixture or pasta is used.
Beat the egg with a little water and salt to make an egg wash. Flour a workbench and lay out half a dozen wonton wrappers. Place 1 Tbs of the pumpkin mixture into the center of each wrapper. Using a pastry brush, paint the egg wash around the edge of each wrapper, and then top with another wonton wrapper. Press down to expel any air pockets and make a tight seal. Continue until all the mixture is used.
At this stage, regardless of which method you used, have 2 choices; either cook the ravioli within 1 hour, or freeze them for later use. To freeze, lay a sheet of freezer paper onto a small tray and carefully lay out the ravioli, making sure they are in a single layer and do not touch each other. Top the first layer with more freezer paper and continue stacking the ravioli. These will freeze well for up to 1 month and can be cooked directly from their frozen state.
To cook the ravioli, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Plunge into the water for 2-3 minutes, no more. Drain and immediately serve topped with some burnt butter with sage leaves, shaved Parmesan cheese, a crisp green salad and good bread. A full flavoured savoury Italian white wine, such as pinot grigio would be the perfect accompaniment.
¹ If you have trouble finding these ingredients, you can leave them out. It won't be quite the same, but it will still be yummy
For a wonderful variation, have a go at exceptinsects ricotta version.