Friday, November 12, 2010

Pimping a traditional Italian recipe: butternut squash tortelli

A couple of weeks ago, for the first time in my life, I submitted a recipe (crunchy butternut squash tortelli with brown sage butter - see below) to a contest organized by Food52, a culinary and recipe blog by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs. Ms Hasser is the author of the recent The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century, which currently tops my Christmas wishlist (I hope somebody is reading this...) 

To cut a long story short, there were more than 170 recipes submitted. I didn't win, but my tortelli were included in the "Editors' pick". Among other things, the tester said that my tortelli "are reminiscent of classic Pumpkin Tortelli and Pumpkin Amaretti Gnocchi. The filling, with its roasted squash, cheese and amaretti crumbs, has good flavor, and the substantial amount of breadcrumbs gives it enough body so that it can mound well". You can read the rest here.  

So, here is the recipe. Let me know if you try it and if you like it.

Butternut squash tortelli with brown sage butter (or Tortelli a' la Tuscan Foodie)

Click here to download or print the recipe.

Pumpkin tortelli (pronounced tortayllee) with amaretto cookies are a traditional dish from Emilia Romagna, a Northern Italian region. This version with butternut squash has a smoother and oiler flavor: the amaretto cookies complement perfectly the sweetness of the butternut squash, and the final searing of the tortelli in the pan with the brown sage butter adds a nice texture to it all. Amaretto cookies are a crunchy Northern Italian traditions, made with almonds. They can be found in all major American supermarkets. As for tortelli, they are a Northern Italian type of ravioli, made by dividing your pasta dough in two layers: on the first layer you put the filling in small batches, and you then cover it all with the second layer of dough. You then use a pizza roller or a knife to cut the various tortelli.
Pasta dough and butternut squash filling:
  • 7 ounces All purpose flour for the pasta dough
  • 2 Eggs for the pasta dough
  • 18-20 ounces butternut squash, peeled and seeded (1 medium squash)
  • 1 cup Bread crumbles
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 eggs for the filling
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pinches salt
  • 2 pinches pepper
  • 1 pinch nutmeg, grated
  • 4 Amaretto cookies, reduced in crumbles
    Brown sage butter:
    • 3.5 tablespoons butter
    • 20 sage leaves
    • 1/2 cup Parmesan, grated, to sprinkle on the plated dish
    1. Peel and seed the butternut squash. Cut it in 4-5 inches pieces and put them in a greased pan. Sprinkle with 2 table spoons of olive oil, cover the pan with aluminium foil an bake at 375F for 1 hour (or until the squash is tender enough to be cut with a fork).
    2. While the squash cooks, prepare your pasta dough. If you have a pasta maker, follow the instructions that came with it. If you don't, put the flouer on a working surface, shaping it like a volcano. Add two eggs, a pinch of salt, and knead for 5-8 minutes. If the dough seems too dry (i.e. there is still loose flour on the working surface) add 1 tablespoon of water. When you are done, create a ball and let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes, covered.
    3. When the squash is cooked, let it cool for 5 minutes, then put it in a bowl and smash it with a fork. Add the breadcrumbs and mix. Add half of the amaretto cookies' crumbles, the 7 ounces of grated Parmesan cheese, the nutmeg, 2 eggs, salt and pepper. Mix everything together until you have a uniform mixture.
    4. Take your dough, divide it in two batches and work it either through your pasta maker or with a hand roll. You want to create two very thin layers. If the pasta is too moist, add some flour. If it is too dry, add very small quantities of water.
    5. Once you have rolled the two layers, set one aside. Use a spoon to put small batches of the filling on the first layer of dough, at a 1.5-2 inches distance from each other. Every batch should be roughly the size of a egg yolk. Once you are done, take the second layer and put it on top of the first. Cut the various tortelli in rectangular shape with a pizza roller or a knife, and seal each of them individually, by pressing and twisting the edges.
    6. Boil 4 to 6 quarts of water, and then add a pinch of salt to it. Delicately put your tortelli in the water, and let them cook for 10 minutes, stirring gently from time to time. You need to be careful not to break your tortelli while you put them in the water.
    7. While the tortelli cook, melt your butter, add the sage leaves, and let the butter become brown and the sage leaves become crispy. This should take 4-5 minutes, but you need to pay attention, as you may need more or less time.
    8. Once the tortelli are ready, take them out gently, let them drain, and then add them to the pan with the brown butter and sage, and cook for at least 3 more minutes, on a medium-high fire, stirring occasionally (the more you live them in the pan, the more they will form a crunchy crust on the outside). You want the tortelli to be coated in butter. Before taking the ravioli out, sprinkle the remaining amaretto cookies crumbles on them and give the tortelli a final stir.
    9. Plate the tortelli. Add grated parmesan cheese and serve immediately. 
    Ready to end up where they belong: YOUR stomach

    This is what the interior looks like once they are ready


    art said...

    That's what I'm talkin' about! Looking forward to more Tuscan recipes! Thanks for this and keep them coming.

    Tuscan foodie in America said...

    Hi Art, thanks! I may add more recipes in the future...mostly American or Italian with an American twist...

    Le Ricette della Nonna said...

    I'm following you now!
    Great Blog!
    Hugs from Bologna, Monia.

    Tuscan foodie in America said...

    Hi Monia, thank you and welcome!

    tuscanycious said...

    These are so good! I've tried the mantova version which contains tiny bits of "mostarda" made of mele renette - the tiny apples_ would you call mostarda a chutney in english? grazie mille

    Tuscan foodie in America said...

    Hi Tuscanycious: I would probably call that type of mostarda an apple chutney, yes.


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