VDP: Butternut Squash Tortelloni

Sunday, Jan 6th, 2008

Pasta stuffed with butternut squash puree is a traditional dish from the Emilia-Romagna region in Italy. It is typically served with a simple sauce of browned butter and sage.

I really did not follow any specific recipe here, more like a composite of recipes that I’ve done before. Homemade pasta is such a pleasure to make that I’ve made it many times and my ‘recipe’ is pretty simple and traditional. I use a ratio of 100gr of flour to each large egg. This particular recipe used 4 eggs and I used about 25% cake flour and 75% AP flour to make a more silky tender dough.

Zucca Tortelloni

For the filling, I usually go by taste but the recipe is based on Mario Batali’s from the “Babbo Cookbook“. Roasted butternut squash is mashed and mixed with a good dose of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, some balsamic vinegar, nutmeg, salt, pepper and sometimes a tablespoon or two of honey if the squash is not sweet enough (this one did not need the honey).

Zucca Tortelloni

Zucca Tortelloni

To fill, I roll the dough using my Atlas pasta machine and cut it into rounds with a 2.5 inch biscuit cutter. Using a piping bag I put in about a teaspoon of filling in there, fold in half to form a half circle and then form into nice tortelloni. Boil it in water and melt some butter. Toss in a few leaves of sage in the butter, let them sizzle for a few seconds and follow them with the pasta.

You can serve this topped with grated Parmigiano cheese, but this time I used some homemade Amaretti cookies. Delicious stuff, and the project is off to a good start since Diana absolutely loves these. It’s good that I froze about another dozen and half for a quick dinner in the future.

Zucca Tortelloni

Zucca Tortelloni

Two New Projects for 2008

Introducing the two new projects for 2008.

Vegetarian Dinners Project (VDP)“, a decision to eat at least two vegetarian dinners per week. This decision was made for three reasons:

1- It is more environmentally friendly to eat more non-meat dishes. Since we are trying to be more ‘green’ this year (switched to non-polluting electric provider, using more environmentally friendly cleaning supplies in the house,…), a diet with more non-meat choices fits right in.
2- It is healthier to incorporate more vegetables, grains, fruits and legumes in our meals and cut back on meats and fats. Who knows, we might even lose a few pounds.
3- It is damn cheaper to eat more meals with no meat! Since I try to avoid mass produced meats as much as I can, it can get pretty pricey buying the ‘Humanely Raised, Grass Fed, Organic, Antibiotic Free, Free Range…’ critters. With two or three meals a week that contain no beef, poultry, pork or fish the food cost is significantly reduced. Lets call it a more quality but less quantity kind of thing

To motivate me even more I have decided to chronicle this project right here. I also created different categories for the meals we will be enjoying. These are:

  • Grains
  • Green Vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Root Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Bread and Pies
  • Pasta and Noodles
  • Eggs
  • Dairy
  • Tofu
  • Mushrooms

I will be using several references to get ideas or recipes from. My primary go-to books will be:
Mediterranean Grains and Greens” by Paula Wolfert
The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean” by Paula Wolfert
Mediterranean Vegetables” by Clifford Wright
How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” by Mark Bittman
The New Book of Middle Eastern Cooking” by Claudia Roden

A couple more disclaimers, I’ll never ever use any fabricated crap to substitute for meat. You know what I mean, stuff like Tofurkey and Veggie Dogs. It’s just wrong, I’ll be having the real thing instead for dinner on those nights. For the purposes of this project, fish sauce counts as vegetarian. I cannot make decent southeast Asian food without it, so it does not count.

Another project I’d like to work on this year is the “Happy in the Kitchen Project (HKP)“. Here I am planning to cook as many recipes as I can from Michel Richard’s fantastic book “Happy in the Kitchen: The Craft of cooking, The Art of Eating“. The recipes are unique, a little experimental, beautiful and the few I’ve tried so far are delicious. I’ve had the book for almost a year, but never seem to get around to cooking from it much. Once again, I am hoping posting about the meals would be a good motivator to keep on cooking.