Rafaella's Pumpkin Tortelli

Tortelli di Zucca alla Raffaella

Mary Ann Esposito

MAKES ABOUT 100

A few years ago I had the good fortune to meet a group of Italian students who were visiting the States. Among them was Raffaella Neviani, a vivacious young woman from Cavriago, in the north of Italy. When she left to return home, I helped her load her belongings on the bus for the long ride to the airport. Hugging me goodbye, she slipped into my hand her mother's heirloom recipe for pumpkin-filled tortelli, a specialty of Reggio-Emilia.

These rectangular ravioli are fun to make and the crushed amaretti cookies in the filling are a subtle but delicious addition. This recipe makes a lot, so you can freeze some for later use.

INGREDIENTS

FILLING

1 1-pound butternut squash or pumpkin
1/4 cup crushed amaretti cookies
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

PASTA

4 large eggs
3 cups King Arthur™ Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour
1/8 teaspoon salt

DIRECTIONS

To make the filling, preheat the oven to 350ºF. Cut the squash or pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds, and discard. Place the halves cut side down in a small baking dish, add ½ cup water, and cover the dish with foil. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the squash is easily pierced with a fork. Let cool. With a spoon, scoop out the flesh of the squash. Put it in a colander and let it drain for 45 minutes.

Transfer the squash to a bowl and mash it well. Add the amaretti, nutmeg, salt, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and mix well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the pasta, combine the flour with the salt and mound it on a work surface. Make a well in the center of the flour and break the eggs into the well. Beat the eggs with a fork. Then, using the fork, gradually incorporate the flour from the inside walls of the well. When the dough becomes too firm to mix with the fork, knead it with your hands, incorporating just enough of the flour to make a soft but not sticky dough. You may not need all the flour. Brush the excess flour aside and knead the dough, adding additional flour as necessary, for about 10 minutes, or until smooth. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

Knead the dough well and cut it into 4 pieces. Work with 1 piece at a time, keeping the rest covered. Roll each piece out to the thinnest setting on a pasta machine, or roll it out with a rolling pin on a floured surface to a thickness of 1/8 inch.

Cut 4- by 2 1/2-inch rectangles from the sheets of dough. Place 1 teaspoon of the filling in the center of each rectangle, fold the rectangles in half lengthwise, making sure to pinch the edges well to seal in the filling, and place on a floured towel. Gather the dough scraps into a ball and reroll them to make more tortelli (You can also make round, half-moon, or square-shaped tortelli.)

To cook, bring a large pot or water to a boil. Cook the tortelli, about 2 dozen at a time, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until they rise to the surface. Drain them carefully, sauce, and serve. Raffaella's mother serves these tossed with a generous amount of melted butter and sprinkled with grated Parmigiano. They are also good with sage butter - add a small handful of fresh sage leaves to the melted butter and press them into the butter with a wooden spoon to release their flavor.

To freeze, arrange the tortelli in a single layer on floured baking sheets, cover with foil, and freeze until hard. Transfer them to plastic bags and freeze for up to 3 months. Do not defrost them before boiling (they will take a little longer to cook).

item recipe is featured in Episode 0 of Season 0.

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