Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Pumpkin Mascarpone Pasta Sauce

This post is not about ravioli.

Ok, this post is tangentially about ravioli.

Let's try again. This post is about how I followed a recipe for ravioli that totally flopped, but ad-libbed a pumpkin mascarpone sauce that was awesome. 

It took me and Jeff two days to make these terrible ravioli. We began on a Sunday afternoon, following a recipe from Cooking Light: Way to Cook Vegetarian. (This is usually a pretty solid cookbook - not sure what happened here.) After spending well over an hour working on the pasta dough - kneading it, letting it rest, realizing it was too sticky, adding flour, kneading again, letting it rest, putting it through the pasta roller, still too sticky, etc. - we gave up. I can't remember ever just giving up on a recipe before. We actually reached the stage of frustration where we tossed the dough and ordered some Indian food.

Meanwhile, I had roasted an entire pumpkin, made puree and began making it into a sauce. I ended up taking the entire pot off the stove and shoving it into the refrigerator where it waited patiently overnight.

The next evening, we tried again using another dough recipe. This one came together the way it was supposed to. When the ravioli were filled and cooked, I stole a taste: not good. We tried to push on, serving them over the pumpkin sauce. The filling was increasingly disgusting to me as I ate - I tried to squeeze it out of the pasta, then just eat around it, and ended up tossing my ravioli in the garbage. Jeff, who pushed on and ate all of his, ended up sick the next day. We have no idea what went wrong (filling undercooked? filling didn't like sitting in the fridge overnight? eggs were bad to begin with?).

The pumpkin sauce is what saved the day. That's basically all I ate for dinner that night. I took the pot out of the fridge, reheated it and finished it off with a little milk and mascarpone cheese. It was delicious. And I invented it. The sauce was inspired by a pumpkin puree we had at Triumph in New Hope on Valentine's Day. Jeff and I asked the waitress what was in it, and she came back with directions from the chef about how to make it ourselves. We didn't try to recreate it exactly, but used the idea as a springboard for the sauce we did create.

It's a beautiful, creamy, thick sauce that was as good on its own as it was with some whole wheat fettucine and peas. I wish I could say it was good with the ravioli - that was the ravioli's fault.

Pumpkin Mascarpone Pasta Sauce

8-10 lb pumpkin (I used a 9 lb cheese pumpkin - any good puree pumpkin will do. You could also sub in 3-4 c pre-made pumpkin puree.)
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp fresh thyme
1/4 c Parmesan cheese
2-4 tbsp milk
1/2 c mascarpone cheese

First, make your pumpkin puree. Preheat oven to 400° F. Cut the top off and scoop out the seeds and stringy bits (just like you're preparing to carve a jack o'lantern). Drizzle olive oil inside and rub it over the pumpkin flesh. Put the lid back on, place the entire pumpkin in a large baking dish and bake for about an hour, until softened and browning in spots. Remove the lid (carefully - there will be steam!) and set aside to cool.

When the pumpkin is cool, separate the skin from the flesh and discard (it should peel off very easily). Put the pumpkin flesh in a food processor and process until smooth (you'll probably need to divide it into two or three batches). Remove the pumpkin puree to a strainer placed over a large bowl. Set aside for 20-30 min, letting some of the excess liquid drain off.

When you're ready to make the sauce, put the pumpkin puree in a covered medium saucepan over medium-low heat for 5 minutes, until heated (keep a close eye on it - it could bubble up and splatter). Stir in salt, pepper, thyme and Parmesan until cheese begins to melt. Add milk to thin out the sauce slightly (you want it thick enough to coat your pasta well, but not quite as thick as the original puree). Finally, stir in mascarpone until melted and well combined. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is heated through, about 3-4 minutes. Serve with pasta.

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