Tortelli with Butternut Squash Filling
If you ever feel guilty eating pasta, well, rejoice: this recipe offers a great combination of pasta and vegetables, this time under the form of a savory and mouthwatering filling.
Tortelli are also called ravioli in other parts of Italy. They are a form of stuffed pasta that exists in various forms since centuries in Italy and other parts of Europe. Comfort food by excellence, the soft, yellowish pillows of pasta reveal an intriguing inside filling that can be made up with a variety of vegetables, nuts and cheese, more or less rich in calories and taste. The shape is also variable: it can be square, round or halfmoon shaped, large or small.
Making your own raviolis will allow you to select the ingredients of the filling according to your own creativity and taste.
The squash stuffed tortelli are a traditional fall recipe from Northern Italy, particularly from the city of Mantova. The unicity of this recipe is that the filling, based on zucca, a generic word for pumpkin, is enriched with another specialty from the region: amaretti. Those bittersweet cookies made with the kern of apricots and almonds are grinded in the filling, giving it a unique taste. I remember the first time I tried them in Mantova: it was a defining moment in my youth! Truth is that in Mantova they also add another specialty, called mustard, that has little to do with the American mustard: basically, candied and preserved fruits with spices in a jar – but for this time I will skip it, as it is difficult to find and time consuming to make.
Usually, the sauce for tortelli is very simple, mostly butter and sage and – of course – Parmigiano; it creates an amazing contrast of flavors with the powerful filling of the dish.
For a festive presentation I like to sprinkle some amaretti crumbs on the finished dish.
It is definitely an elegant dish, and it will give you a lot of satisfaction to make your own!
Serves 4 as a main dish
FOR THE DOUGH:
300 grams of flour
3 large eggs
A dash of EV Olive Oil
FOR THE FILLING:
1 medium butternut squash – 400gr of flesh after cleaning
3 tablespoons (or more) grated parmigiano
Salt and pepper
Nutmeg – a pinch
Olive oil: as needed
6-8 amaretti cookies
FOR THE SAUCE:
½ stick of butter and 2 spoons of EV Olive oil (you may substitute the butter with more olive oil)
7-8 fresh sage leaves
3-4 crushed amaretti
Sliced almonds (optional)
1-2 tablespoons pomegranate arils
1. Prepare the dough by breaking the eggs in your stand mixer bowl; add the olive oil, 2/3 of the flour.
2. Mix with the paddle attachment until the dough comes together.
3. Change the paddle to the hook attachment.
4. While mixing on a low speed, keep adding the rest of the flour on the side of the bowl with a spoon. You might have to stop the motor a couple of time to mix the dough by hand.
5. Mix until you have a smooth ball of dough. Divide in 4, pack each piece with plastic wrap and put them in the fridge to rest for at least one hour.
6. In the meantime, prepare the filling. Peel and cut the squash in cubes, drizzle with oil, mix, cook in the oven @ 375F for 25-30 minutes, making sure it doesn’t burn.
7. Sautee the chopped shallot and the sage on a nonstick pan with a drizzle of EVOO.
8. For added flavor, add the cubed and par-cooked squash, add salt, pepper and nutmeg as desired, cover with a lid, and let it cook longer until almost brownish, adding a couple of tablespoons of water if needed. The result must be a dry, almost mashed-potatoes-like mixture.
9. Mash with a fork, at this point the squash will be very soft and won’t resist.
10. Let it cool down, then add the Parmigiano.
MAKING THE TORTELLI:
11. With the help of the pasta roller attachment on your stand mixer roll a piece of dough to 3 millimeters (number 6 thickness on my kitchen aid)
12. Put the ribbon of dough on a wooden surface sprinkled with semolina, to avoid sticking.
13. Work quickly and in batches: with a cookie cutter cut circles of approximately 2 inches diameter. Remove the extra dough pieces and keep in a Ziploc for future use.
14. Pipe a dollop of filling in the center of the round dough, keeping half of the rounds to use as “lids”. You should not put too much filling, or you will have trouble closing the tortelli; but you cannot put too little either, otherwise the flavor will be too bland. A teaspoon is usually a good size reference! You can also use 2 teaspoons to make a small ball of filling and transfer to each circle.
15. Superpose a lid on each tortelli. Carefully start to close one side, pinching the dough so that it sticks together. Make sure there is no air bubble in the center. Go around twice, to fortify the border. Put the closed tortello on an aluminum pan sprinkled with semolina until you are ready to cook them.
16. Put a large pot of water to boil, add salt. When it reaches boiling temperature (212F), throw in 10-12 pieces maximum, gently stirring the water so that they don’t sit on the bottom.
17. When the tortelli start to float, remove them from the water with the help of a large, spiral wire skimmer.
18. Gently transfer to the nonstick pan, where you will have prepared a sauce melting butter and lightly frying the sage in it.
19. Add one-two tablespoons of boiling water and then the parmigiano on top for each batch, so that a creamy sauce forms. Transfer to a warm white porcelain platter to serve.
20. Decorate with some more parmigiano, some crushed amaretti, shaved almonds, pomegranate arils for the color.
A Few Notes:
- Consider that the tortelli will keep absorbing water while cooling down, so make sure the sauce is quite loose. You can add a couple more tablespoons of cooking water if needed.
- To speed up the process, you can cook the cubed butternut squash in the microwave, covered, for 9-10 minutes, and then sauté it with the shallot and sage.
- Tortelli can be kept in the fridge ready to be cooked for one day. Careful though because the humidity of the filling will make the dough stick to the tray. To prevent this, put them on a linen kitchen towel sprinkled with semolina, do not superpose.
- Even better, blanch them in boiling water for 10 seconds, and then put them on the linen kitchen towel sprinkled with semolina to dry. Then put them in the fridge.
- Sometimes people also add egg and/or ricotta to the filling. It is also very nice, a little smoother in taste. Also, for a festive dish, add some heavy cream to the butter sage sauce and let reduce.
- You can roll the pasta by hand: more labor intensive but doable!
Elisabetta Ciardullo is the founder of Think Italian! Events. As Personal Chef she is an ambassador of the Italian cuisine and culture, bringing it into the private homes of Americans, as well as to many corporate clients in Los Angeles.