Squash & chestnut ravioli with crispy pancetta

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I was still feeling particularly triumphant after the success of my last stuffed pasta dish – pecan, walnut & gorgonzola tortellini with figs & rosemary – when I attempted tonight’s dinner. And I’ve come out the other side feeling pretty pleased with myself again. Perhaps I’ve mastered fresh pasta! It certainly seems to be a really bump-free process, which I never thought I’d say. I have to say that it’s really, really quite hassle-free. I’d urge you to give it a go if you’ve never tried. You might surprise yourself as much as I did.

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The filling for this ravioli is a classic autumn combination – and not a minute too early. We froze our socks off today. I pulled on a pair of tights for the first time in 3 months, and actually wore more than two layers (it’s really not that cold, I was just being a bit of a wimp – and a heavy weekend probably didn’t help!) It’ been a pleasant weekend actually, food-wise. My friend Alice pulled off a pretty incredible jerk chicken dinner (under the influence of a good few G&Ts) on Friday and then I ate a whole lobster with garlic & lemon butter on Saturday, plus I’ve bought some great Italian and Persian ingredients that will no doubt be featured over the coming week in some recipe or another!

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In general though, this time of year is always a little bitter-sweet. I feel like the summer sped by…. and wasn’t it a good one? We felt some serious heat on the streets of London. I always wish it could last forever.. but then I remember things like coats (I love coats!!) and squash (squash is amazing!!) and chesnuts (wow !!!!!) and I’m a little happy that autumn’s upon us.

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Indeed, I’m fully embracing it with this filling, which is almost a cliche it’s so autumnal. But cliches taste good. I was cooking for two, as usual, but the filling I made could feed an army – I used less than half, so have adjusted the pasta quantity in the below recipe to suit. I reckon it would happily stuff enough pasta for 5 or 6 people. I reckon I’ll be stuffing my leftovers into chicken breasts tomorrow night, as it was far too delicious to throw away.

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I’ve roasted the squash with a little spice (cinnamon, nutmeg and chilli), just to pimp it ever so slightly. I didn’t really want the flavours to be very apparent – just enough to add a touch of spice.

Oh – and I should mention that these photos were very kindly taken for me by my boyfriend using our friend’s fancy Canon DSLR. Oh how I wish I could afford one. Sigh.

Note: this recipe serves 5-6 people generously

You will need:

For the filling:

1 small squash (I used the onion variety), peeled, deseeded and roughly chopped
200g ready roasted and vac-packed chesnuts (I used Merchant Gourmet)
A small pot of apple purée (or substitute approx 2 tbspns of smooth apple sauce)
The leaves from two sprigs of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
A small handful of fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1/2 Tspn cinnamon
1/2 Tspn chilli powder
1/2 Tspn nutmeg
Salt, pepper

For the pasta:

500g tip 00 pasta grade flour
5 large eggs
Good pinch of fine salt

Plus:

160g free range pancetta, diced
Olive oil
A little grana padana, grated, to serve
Semolina or polenta, to dust

Method:

1 – Start by making the filling as it will need to be completely cool before being stuffed into the pasta; preheat the oven to 180 degrees
2 – Mix the squash with the spices and herbs, plus a little seasoning and olive oil and place in a roasting tin; roast until the squash is slightly golden and cooked through
3 – Once cooked and cooked slightly, chop the squash up into little pieces along with the chesnuts; transfer the mix to a bowl and mash lightly (you want it to be squidgey but textured!)
4 – Now stir in the apple purée or sauce; you’ll end up with a chunky thick paste
5 – Check seasoning and set aside until needed
6 – Now start your pasta; tip the flour into a big bowl and create a well in the centre
7 – Crack your eggs into the well, and add the salt to the eggs before breaking the eggs up with a fork and gradually whisking them into the flour
8 – Ditch the fork and get your hands into the bowl, mixing together the eggs and flour until well combined (they’ll be very sticky at first but don’t worry, it’ll come together!)
9 – Knead the dough over a floured surface for around 10 minutes (time yourself), until the dough changes texture from dry and floury to completely smooth and elastic
10 – Wrap the dough with cling film and pop in the fridge until you’re ready to roll it out
11 – Set up your pasta machine and put it on the widest setting; start by rolling the dough through this setting
12 – Roll the dough through the roller’s second widest setting, then back through the rollers on the widest setting; repeat 5 times
13 – Now the dough should be rolled out nicely and silky; roll it through each roller setting once, working down to the very narrowest setting
14 – The pasta will be long and thin at this point; take it and fold it in half, then in half again (and maybe again) until you have a square of dough
15 – Turn the dough round 90 degrees and run it back through the thickest setting, then the second thinnest, and so on until you pass it through the narrowest setting
16 – So now you have a big long strip of lovely thin pasta; cut it into two equal pieces
17 – Grab a small cookie cutter and use it to cut circles out of your dough sheets; discard any leftover offcuts

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18 – Take your first dough circle and spoon a small amount of the filling (about the size of a Malteaser!) in the centre of the dough circle; use a pastry brush to dab water around the edges of the circle

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19 – Use your fingers to gently press another identical dough circle down neatly around the filling, carefully pressing the edges together and squeezing out any air bubbles around the filling as you do

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20 – Set aside onto a lightly polenta/semolina dusted tray

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21 – Repeat steps 18-20 til all your pasta is filled
22 – Get a large saucepan of salted water onto to boil and meanwhile prepare your pancetta
23 – Grab a frying pan and heat a little oil; add the diced pancetta and fry until crisp

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24 – Tip your pasta carefully into the gently bubbling water you’ve been heating; don’t let it bubble too vigorously
25 – Cook the pasta for a couple of minutes only; once the ravioli float to the surface they’re ready to drain

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26 – Now dish the pasta up into two bowls and tip the pancetta over the top; scatter some olive oil and grana padana over the top before serving immediately

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4 thoughts on “Squash & chestnut ravioli with crispy pancetta

  1. Oh yum. These sound amazing… love the combination of the squash with the delicate spices, chestnuts and pancetta. Your man has a pretty good eye for photography… that shot of the pancetta, followed by the glossy pasta as it goes straight onto the plate? Ah, drool worthy! Glad that you’ve got some good things to look forward to as the winter hits. I do love coats! xx

    1. Thanks Laura – ill tell him he has to buy a camera and take photographing my food permanently as a hobby! ;-)
      I take back all my positive musings about autumn today as I sit soaked through with soggy feet, shivering at my desk!! Haha

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