For somebody who loves feeding others, I seem to have a propensity for surrounding myself with people with serious food issues.
The omnipresence of my famously flavourphobic partner aside, my small circle of family and friends seem to be a motley crew made up of those with various intolerances, medically restricted diets, committed (and occasional) vegetarians, coriander-loathers, banana-haters and even someone who can’t eat anything green. Whilst I love feeding each and every one of them, they do, however, present somewhat of a challenge to cook for. Luckily (for them?), I do love a good challenge and catering for their specific needs and preferences does force me to try out new things. More often than not, the end results become firm personal favourites.
Which brings me to this particular recipe: Pumpkin Ravioli with Shaved Fennel and Burnt Sage Butter – a dish so insanely good, just saying the name makes my mouth water! Born out of the need to feed a friend who is a borderline vegetarian (and a selfish desire to use a ravioli mould that I bought when last in Rome), this delightful little dish is damn near pasta-perfection on a plate.
A variation of the Italian classic Ravioli di Zucca, the addition of the thinly shaved fennel is a refreshing twist, both in terms of texture and flavour. The crisp fennel and lemon cuts through the richness of the pumpkin/pasta parcels and burnt butter, giving the original dish much needed balance.
This satisfying dish makes for an amazing starter, as it does a worthy main.
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Pumpkin Ravioli with Shaved Fennel and Burnt Sage Butter: Serves 4
- 250g pumpkin, peeled and cubed
- Basic Homemade Pasta, made with 2 eggs and 200g “00” flour (or cake flour)
- 1 extra-large egg, beaten
- 50g Parmesan or pecorino cheese, freshly grated
- 50g dried breadcrumbs
- Salt and pepper
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 fennel bulb
- 16 large sage leaves
- 200g butter
- Extra grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese (for serving)
- Steam the pumpkin until tender. Allow to cool and then place the pumpkin in a clean cloth and squeeze out as much liquid as you can
- Place the pumpkin into a bowl and mash with a fork. Add the eggs, Parmesan/pecorino, breadcrumbs and salt, pepper, as well as the nutmeg to taste. Mix until everything is combined
- Shave the fennel as thinly as possible. Place in a bowl, cover with cling wrap and keep in the fridge
- Roll the pasta dough out into an even number of long sheets and place on a lightly floured work surface. Put teaspoons of the pumpkin mixture on one of the pasta sheets at intervals of 2cm. Lay a second pasta sheet on top to cover the filling and press down all around to stick the pasta together. Cut the ravioli into squares with a serrated pasta wheel and set aside under a clean kitchen towel
- In a small saucepan melt the butter over a low heat until it turns a nutty brown and the milk fat separates. Add the sage leaves and fry until crisp. Remove the leaves and drain on some paper towel. Take the butter off the heat
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the ravioli and cook for 5 minutes – they will float to the top as they cook. Scoop them out and place in a warmed serving plate
- Drizzle with the burnt butter and sage leaves. Sprinkle over the shaved fennel and the Parmesan/pecorino cheese
- Serve immediately