Sunday, 20 July 2008

Ravioli o Tortelli Di Zucca Mantovani

This recipe is typical of Milan and the surrounding area. Milanese food is not my favourite in Italy. It tends to be heavy and can seem a bit bland compared to the pungent aromas favoured in the south. This recipe however is unique and exciting. The pasta filling is sweet and aromatic and though the concept sounds a wee bit strange, it works very well.

This is a powerful meal so I don't recommend you give yourself a huge bowl of it as you would bolognese. I have made that mistake in the past and regretted it. I suggest rather that you serve it as a primi piati and keep portions small. It is not an easy dish to make anyway so unless you want to be locked in your kitchen all day, small portions will probably suit you just fine.


For the filling:

1 kg butter nut squash
160g amaretti biscuits
160g mostarda di mantova
180g grated grana padano (or parmesan)
80g butter
salt and pepper

For the pasta:

600g italian 00 flour
6 eggs
a good pinch of finely ground salt

To serve:

grated grana padano
a few sage leaves


Before attempting this you will need to find some mostarda. Mostarda is a speciality of the Italian province of Milan, Lombardia. It looks a bit like glaceƩ fruit in sugar syrup, but when you taste it, you soon realise that the syrup packs a punch. The punch is mustard and the syrup is a unique sweet/savoury suspension of sugar and mustard. Going off the idea? Well its not for everyone but it works really well in this recipe so please persevere.

You can eat the remainder of the jar/tin (it comes in both) with cheese in place of quince or chutney. Mostarda is not readily available in the UK so you'll probably need to find an Italian deli unless your supermarket is very posh.

Chop the squash flesh into inch and a half cubes, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast in a medium oven until the flesh is tender and gives easily when poked with a knife. The roasting process concentrates the flavour and brings out the amazing sweetness of BNS.

Remove and set aside to cool. When cooled, mix in a blender with the other filling ingredients. You are aiming for a smooth paste.

Make the pasta as normal. For pasta newbies, that means bunging all of the pasta ingredients in a mixing bowl or blender. Once mixed into a firm (not stiff) dough, cover the dough with cling film and refrigerate for an hour or so.

Make the ravioli or tortelli as usual. I am not going to explain the process here now but will aim to produce a photographic tutorial at some point soon.

To serve the pasta, melt the butter with the sage leaves on a very low heat, drizzle the strained sage butter over the pasta with a light grating of grana padano.