Ravioli di Zucca (Butternut Squash Ravioli) Made with Wonton Wrappers

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Yep, I got all fancy by making these ravioli in heart and circle shapes for hugs and kisses ravioli.

This version is lighter than the Ravioli di Zucca that you will find in a restaurant.  The dish is traditionally made with a thicker egg pasta, and then bathed in a brown butter and sage sauce.  It’s very good, but sometimes too heavy for me, especially when spring is coming.

In the Italian language, “zucca” means “pumpkin” and “pumpkin” means “winter squash”.

zucca =pumpkin=winter squash

Interesting enough, this is the same in the English language.  We just don’t know it.  Americans associate the word pumpkin with the familiar round orange winter squash that comes in a small size for pie making, or a large size for carving and decoration.  That’s how we use the word pumpkin.

Every once in a while I see a meme exclaiming:

DID YOU KNOW THERE IS NO PUMPKIN IN YOUR CANNED PUMPKIN PIE FILLING???  HOW CAN THEY GET AWAY WITH THIS???

My pie eating friends, please rest assured that it truly IS pumpkin in your canned pumpkin.  It’s just a variety of pumpkin that is shaped differently than what you are used to seeing at the grocery store or on your neighbors porch.  It’s a pie pumpkin – a kind that was bred in a different shape so it would be easier to harvest and can.

For ravioli di zucca, I like to use the milder, more flowery flavor of butternut squash.  Roasting it results in a carmelized note and silky texture once you put it in the food processor.  It’s so good that it doesn’t need any spices at all.

That’s why this filling is just butternut squash, a small amount of amaretti cookies, and a sprinkle of lemon zest.

Make sure to heavily salt your water whenever you cook pasta.  It should be as salty as the sea.

Enjoy!  And if someone makes this FOR you, make sure to give them lots of hugs and kisses, because believe me, it takes a long time to make these little guys.  Add in a back rub as well.  Hugs and kisses and a back rub ravioli. 🙂

Ravioli di Zucca

makes 64 ravioli

1 1/2 pounds roasted butternut squash, roughly chopped

9 Ameretti cookies

wee amount of lemon zest – like 1/8 teaspoon

wonton wrappers

1 egg + small amount of water, beaten

sauce for 24 ravioli – 4 servings

2 T butter

2 pinches red pepper

1 t crushed sage (more if you want)

handfull baby spinach leaves

1 C water

1/2 cube (crumbled) of vegetable bouillon with salt

optional: top with grated Grana Padana cheese

In a food processor, grind the cookies first, then add the squash and the zest until fully incorporated.  The mixture should be somewhat dry, and fully ground.  Transfer to a mixing bowl.

Place 1/2 T of squash mixture into the center of a wonton wrapper.  Brush beaten egg on all four sides of the wrapper, and place another wrapper on top, pressing down and getting out as many air bubbles as possible.  Use a cookie cutter, glass or ravioli machine to cut out the desired shape.  Place on a wax paper lined cookie sheet, and cover with a damp dishcloth.  Once the tray is full, remove towel, and transfer ravioli to the freezer or refrigerator.  Continue until all the ravioli are finished.  You can freeze the ravioli you are not cooking for supper at a later time!

Bring several quarts of water to a boil and then add salt. While waiting for water to boil, heat up butter, sage, and red pepper in a saute pan on med low until the butter browns.  As soon as it starts to brown, add the spinach leaves and crumbled bouillon, then the water.  reduce the heat to simmer once it boils, and let it simmer while you cook the ravioli.

I recommend cooking the ravioli thawed if it was previously frozen.  These take about 2 minutes or so.  Transfer from water to the saute pan to soak up flavoring for at least another minute.  Transfer the ravioli to serving dishes and ladle the broth over the top.

Top with cracked pepper and grana padana if you wish!

 

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Gram’s Crepes

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I loved to wake up in the morning and discover that my Grandma had been making crepes.  They were, and still are my favorite breakfast.  Nothing fancy, just warm crepes spread with a choice of different jellies and jams.  For me, orange marmalade is the absolute perfect filling for such a delectable pancake.

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My Grandmother just passed away 2 days ago – 2 short weeks before her 95th birthday.  I have a bunch of recipes that she shared with my Mother and I.  All carefully typed out, with handwritten messages in the margins.

Many of the recipes have tips for making them with limited ingredients – the kinds of ingredients you would find on a military base at the “commissary”.  Today there is quite a wide variety of items, but that wasn’t always the case long ago, so sometimes you had to get creative.

She had been a Drill Sergeant in the Marines during WWII while my Grandfather was flying in the Pacific for the Army Air Corps – which later became the Airforce.  She wasn’t a cuddly Grandma, in case you’re wondering what kind of Grandma a Drill Sergeant is.

 

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She was a woman who’s body had been strengthened and made flexible by years of dance training in her youth and young adult years.  In the larger picture below, she is dancing at about the age of 12 or so while the famous composer Liberace is playing piano.  Both grew up in West Allis Wisconsin – a small working class suburb of the larger working class city of Milwaukee.  In the smaller picture, she is stretching while stationed at Camp LeJeune.

As long as I knew her, she spent every night stretching to keep her body in health.  Every night.  Usually after swimming her 50 laps in the pool.  Oftentimes naked, which is why I never joined her.  I wasn’t about to go swimming with my naked Grandma, so I swam during the day.

 

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And because she only slept for about 4-5 hours every evening, she would go to bed at midnight, and be up by 4:30 or 5 to make crepes . That way they would be ready by the time us kids woke up in the morning.

Ha!  No, not really!  She didn’t actually get up that early just to make crepes.  She just didn’t sleep very much.  But I’ll tell you, I was always so excited when I would walk out and see all the assorted jams on that table, each neatly spooned into small dishes on a lazy suzan. It meant we were having crepes!

I love you Grandma, and I’ll be sharing more of yours and Grandpa’s recipes in the future.  And I apologize – you never wanted to be called “Grandma” because you decided that was only for “old people”.  So almost everything you signed was “Grams”.

This post is in honor of you Grams.

Much love,

Christina

Gram’s Crepes (makes about 12 small crepes)

3 large eggs

1 C whole milk

1 Cup All Purpose flour (I’ve made great gluten free crepes with alternative flours)

3 T melted butter + more butter for the pan

Combine eggs, milk and flour in a mixing bowl using a handheld mixer or blender.  Or…do it the old fashioned way – with muscles and a whisk.  Add melted butter.  Refrigerate overnight ideally, or for at least an hour or more.  Enough time to let the flour absorb the liquid.  This makes it easy to cook the crepes without tearing them, and they actually cook a bit more quickly.

I no longer have a crepe pan, but actually prefer my “crepe assembly line method”.  Small nonstick pan on one burner.  Larger nonstick pan on a different burner.  Wooden board for a quick cool down, and a serving plate kept warm in the oven at 200 F.

Preheat small pan to med low, and large pan to a bit under that.  Add a small amount of butter to the small pan, and pour in approximately 1/4 C of batter, quickly swirling to make an even, thin pancake.  Cook for about 1-2 minutes until set.  Gently loosen the edges – it should pop right out if the flour absorbed enough of the liquid.  Flip onto the larger pan, and cook for just a bit – usually less than a minute. Repeat process with smaller pan.

Remove crepe from larger pan and set on wooden cutting board.  This helps when you are making a pile of them to serve all at once.  It brings down the moisture content just a bit so they don’t stick together.

Flip 1/2 done crepe onto larger pan, and put the finished crepe from the board on your serving dish in the warm oven.

Repeat process, adding butter if needed to the smaller pan.  Small pan, big pan, wooden board, oven.  Small pan, big pan, wooden board, oven.  This ends up going very quickly once you do it assembly line style!

Serve with different jellies, jams, or fresh fruit, and watch your family smile!

 

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Red Grapes and Pine Nuts

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Antioxidants, fiber (or should I spell it “fibre” just to shake things up a bit), vitamins and minerals galore, toasty, crunchy, and pops of sweet.

Top with crumbled bacon if you would like, or better yet, serve with sausage.  It’s especially good with Italian style sausage, and if you’ve never had sausages and grapes for supper, then you’re missing out.

The only thing this picture is missing is the sprouts and the pine nuts!

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Brussels Sprouts are a variety of cabbage that grows on a stalk, and the sprout itself is actually a “bud”, like a flower bud.  They’re not “baby cabbages” like I once thought, but an actual type that originally came from the Mediterranean region and then moved north through Europe.

One cup of these sprouts has 120% of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C.  And you know what my favorite dessert is to have after this meal?

A couple of mandarin oranges.  More Vitamin C.  And the other part of a good dessert?  The almost forgotten and lesser known Vitamin C – Conversation.  

This entire meal can be on the table in about 30 minutes, leaving plenty of time to enjoy each others company.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Red Grapes and Pine Nuts

1/2 pound Brussels Sprouts, sliced in 1/2 lengthwise through the core

olive oil

salt, pepper, garlic powder, red pepper flakes

1/2 C red grapes, sliced in 1/2

2 t pine nuts

Iron skillet

Preheat oven to 400F.  In a small mixing bowl, drizzle some olive oil over the sprouts and add in the seasonings.  I don’t measure.  Mix to make sure everything is coated and then put into your skillet.  Don’t crowd them too much or they’ll steam instead of roast.  Set timer for 15 minutes.

Take out pan and flip the sprouts.  Add the grapes and nuts to the pan.  Return to oven for 5 minutes.

Transfer to plate immediately so those little nuts don’t get too brown!  Top with bacon, or some additional salt and pepper and a drizzle of good olive oil.

 

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Panzarotti (small hand held deep fried calzone)

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In a village called Monteroni d’Arbia , in the heart of Tuscany (Toscana), was a gem of a restaurant.

It was my first visit to Italy and I was looking for a place that was focused on farm to table food, and locally made items.

In this restaurant I was served something called panzarotti.  It had cheese and tomatoes in a fried crust.

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It’s a specialty of an area outside of Tuscany called Puglia (Apulia).  However, Naples also claims to be the birthplace of panzarotti.

What is interesting, is that in a small city in Wisconsin, there is a restaurant that has been serving something very similar called a “Ponza Rotta”, since 1976. It’s the same thing, only this version is HUGE.  Barely fits on a plate huge.  For a long time, it was the only place you could find it in the US.  And for a long time, no one knew the history of it.  Now, they are served at many places and even New Jersey claims to be the birthplace of these delectable treats.

If places around the world argue over who invented something, you have to believe that they are good!  Wherever they came from, or whomever came up with the idea, they were pretty genius in my humble opinion.

This crust recipe came from the blog thesweetworldsite.com where she asked that I try her calzone recipe.  This is an awesome dough, and I’ll be using it from now on.

My heart to yours,

Christina

Panzerotti

3 cups flour

pinch of salt

1/2 C warm water ( I used a PH of almost 9.  Water makes a difference)

1 1/2 t yeast

1 t sugar

extra warm water if needed

2 14.5 oz cans fire roasted tomatoes diced and drained of liquid

2 C shredded mozzarella  (I actually used a mix of mozzarella and provolone.  If you are using a fresh mozz, make sure to drain it very very well)

2 t Italian seasoning

grapeseed oil

Food processor

Mix the dried yeast and sugar and warm up your water.  Pour the water into your yeast sugar mix.  Let sit for a while.  Everyone says 5 minutes.

In your food processor, mix together 3 cups of flour and a “pinch” of salt.  I used sea salt, and the pinch is probably 1/4 t as I did it. Pulse.

Slowly pour the yeast water mixture into the flour. Keep pulsing.  Add more warm water as needed to make the ball. I ended up using about 3/4 C in total. It will form a ball all by itself. Take it out and pat it.  It should feel like a bay butt.  Sprinkle with water, cover it with a cotton dishcloth, and put in a warm place to rise for about an hour or so.

Take your cans of fireroasted tomatoes and pour them out in a collandar that you set over a bowl to catch the juices.  Stir them and let them drain.  Once they are drained, chop them up into little pieces. Drain again, and put into a bowl.  Mix in the cheese and seasonings.

Take your dough out and pat it down. Loosely stretch it into a log. Cut in 1/2, and then form 2 balls.  You don’t have to knead. After forming the 2 balls, stretch each one into a log and divide each log into 8 pieces.  Form a little dough ball with each piece, sprinkle with water, and cover to let rise a second time.  They should double in size.  Take them out again, pat them down, and reform the ball.  At this time, the dough will be firm enough to really handle that high temperature. Roll it out into a circle.  These end up being somewhere between 5 and 5 1/2 inches round.

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Fill with 1 1/2 – 2 T tomato and cheese mixture.  Honestly, you could put whatever pizza filling you wanted in there.  Fold the it over and pinch the ends so that it stays together.  Once they are done, I put them in the refrigerator to wait while the oil heats up.

Heat up your oil in a dutch oven.  It’s ready when you put the handle of a wooden spoon into the oil and it starts to bubble up and then the bubbles race away from the handle.

Gently lay one of the pastries into the oil.  Once it floats to the surface, add your next pastry.  Then, when that one hits the surface, add the next one.  As they start to brown, flip them over and continue to cook.  These go very fast – most of them took only around 3 minutes, but some took a bit longer. Remove them from the oil, and let them drain on a wire rack.  Sprinkle with salt.

Someone is going to try this recipe with an airfryer, so we’ll see how that works!  They are not very oily to begin with, but I’m curious to see if this crust will work with that cooking method!

 

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