In case you haven’t noticed by now, I have a thing for mildly attractive, slightly insane, totally in-your-face chefs. First, there was Anthony Bourdain who is exactly the kind of guy you would never want to take home to your parents but who you’re totally going to sleep with anyway. Just look at the man. You know he’s going to give you the best night of your life, followed by steak and pommes frites for breakfast the next morning. Man of my dreams.
Then, there was, is and ever will be Michael Symon. Bald, adorable, unapologetic about his disdain for vegetarian food and absolutely self righteous in his adoration of pork belly and beef cheeks. Gotta love a man with principles. Even if you don’t necessarily agree with them. It makes him that much hotter.
And now, after reading Bill Buford’s Heat. There is Mario Batali. Who, with his red hair and larger than life persona (and stomach) is the quintessential Italian stallion.
Sure, he may have a slight temper. His behavior may be erratic at best. He may throw things in the kitchen. But none of this really matters once you realize the genius behind the madness and the passion behind that crazed look he gets just before he throws you out of his kitchen (but doesn’t really mean it).
Heat is an account of journalist Bill Buford’s experience working in a Batali kitchen. However, what starts out as an expose` on what exactly goes down behind the scenes of your average Michelin-starred restaurant becomes so much more when Buford becomes so entranced by the food industry that he decides to leave his job as a writer and learn how to cook Italian. The book recounts not only Buford’s experience in the kitchen, but also details the frequent sojourns to Italy that he makes in an attempt to really get to the heart of Italian food, which are interspersed with anecdotes from Mario’s past.
Although I thought the book was an interesting read, I never really felt like I connected with Buford. In all honesty, I thought he was a bit frivolous and self-involved. Especially when he did things like decide on a whim to travel to Italy to learn how to make pasta without a thought for his wife or his career. Reckless. And unnecessary.
At least, that is what I tried to prove in making my dish for this month’s Cook the Books. I didn’t need a visit to the Italian countryside to learn how to make these ravioli. And neither will you.
All you need is some flour, water, and eggs. A trusty pasta maker. Two hands. A hint of intuition. And the image of your favorite celebrity chef (naked) plastered in the back of your mind. Because after stuffing ravioli for over an hour. You’ll need something to keep you going.
I made these for some of my friends from college who came to visit over this long weekend and they were a HUGE hit. What I like most about them is that the filling is not your traditional sweet pumpkin-pie-esque stuffing but is instead a balsamic and parmesan infused no-questions-asked Italian stuffing. This, paired with the brown butter sauce, toasted hazelnuts, and amaretti (especially the amaretti. Don’t leave these out.). Is truly amazing stuff.
Makes about 40 ravioli, adapted from The Babbo Cookbook
1 medium-sized pumpkin/butternut squash/acorn squash (about 2-2.5 lb)
1/2-1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 1/2-4 cups AP flour
5 large eggs
1/2 tsp olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 450. Cut your winter squash of choice in half. Remove the seeds and place cut side up on a baking sheet. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until fork-tender.
2. When cooked, allow to cool enough to touch. Scoop squash flesh into a bowl. Mash with 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar, and nutmeg. Add more parmesan cheese to taste. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, eggs, and olive oil. Mix using the bread hook until just combined. Then knead with the hook for about 2 minutes. OR if you don’t have a stand mixer, follow Batali’s instructions here. Cover dough in plastic wrap and allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
4. Set up your pasta maker. Break off a chunk of pasta dough and stretch it out to as thin a rectangle as you can. If it is wet, as mine was, add more flour just past the point of stickiness. Roll out the dough to the thinnest setting on your pasta machine. Using a biscuit cutter or a water glass, cut out 2-inch circles. Spoon approximately a tsp of filling onto the center half of the rounds and cover with a second round. Press the edges together firmly to seal. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. You will have extra filling. Eat it with a spoon.
Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage and Toasted Hazelnuts
Serves 4, adapted from Giada de Laurentis
1/2 cup peeled hazelnuts
a few tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 stick salted butter
6 fresh sage leaves
1/2 cup grated parmesan
2 amaretti cookies
1. Preheat oven to 350. Spread hazelnuts on a tray and toast in the oven until brown and fragrant, about 5-7 minutes. Allow to cool completely. Put in a food processor and chop into small chunks.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add in a bit of vegetable oil so the ravioli don’t stick to each other. Add the ravioli to the pot. When they float, remove them using a slotted spoon to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm. Reserve the pasta water.
3. In a small saute pan, melt the butter. When butter is sizzling and starts to brown, tear sage leaves into the pan and fry for about 20 seconds. Stir in a ladle of pasta water. Stir in nutmeg and parmesan cheese. Pour sauce over the ravioli and sprinkle with hazelnuts and grated amaretti.
I am submitting this to Presto Pasta Nights, which is being hosted by Ruth of Once Upon A Feast, the Hearth N Soul Bloghop, Cook the Books, I Heart Cooking Clubs, and Chaya’s Meatless Mondays. This has been linked to A Moderate Life’s 12 Days of Bloggie-Mas! This has been linked to Marla’s Happy Post over at Family Fresh Cooking!