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Make homemade butternut squash ravioli in a few simple steps

WHEN I WAS IN CULINARY SCHOOL, my roommate gave me an authentic, hand-cranking pasta machine. The gift was inspired by my love for my Italian cooking class. It also cemented my status as a foodie.

Handmade pasta certainly is an impressive meal. Yet every time I make it, I remember how easy — although time-consuming — it is. An investment in a classic, $60 machine, a food processor, and a little patience are all you need. Once you’ve got down the basics of making the dough, your taste buds are the limit. I’ve added fresh herbs and spinach to spruce up my noodles in the past.

My favorite way to personalize pasta is to make homemade ravioli with a melt-in-your-mouth stuffing. Here, fall-perfect butternut squash adds sweetness and seasonality to the delicate stuffed mini envelopes. I like to make an extra batch of dough to freeze: That way, the next time the craving hits, I just thaw, roll, cut and boil. A gift that keeps giving, indeed.

Butternut Squash Ravioli With Sage Cream Sauce
Serves 4-6

For filling:
1 butternut squash (2-3 lbs.)
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
3 tsp. heavy cream
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. black pepper (plus more for seasoning)
1 tsp. kosher salt (plus more for seasoning)

For pasta dough:
4 c. bread flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
5 eggs
2-3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

For sauce:
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 c. sliced shallots
8-10 fresh sage leaves
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

For garnish:
Parmesan cheese
4 tsp. chopped hazelnuts

To make filling: Preheat oven to 400° Fahrenheit. Cut squash in half vertically, drizzle 3 tablespoons olive oil on flesh sides, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and place flesh side down on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake until tender, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. When cool, scrape flesh from skin (discarding seeds), and place in food processor. Pulse until smooth. Transfer squash to a mixing bowl, and mix in 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, 3 teaspoons heavy cream, cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1 teaspoon salt.

To make dough: In a food processor, add flour and 1 teaspoon salt, and pulse a few times to aerate. Crack eggs one at a time into running processor, until just incorporated. Stop food processor and redistribute dough if necessary. Drizzle in 2 tablespoons olive oil, and mix until incorporated. Do not overmix. Dough should be slightly mealy and barely stay together; if it appears too crumbly, add 1 more tablespoon oil while processor is running. Place dough onto a cutting board or countertop, and gently form into two equal logs. Wrap each log completely in plastic wrap, and let sit at room temperature for at least 10 minutes (and no more than 1 hour) or freeze for future use.

To assemble ravioli: Cut half of one log of dough to work. (Rewrap other half in plastic and set aside.) Gently press into the shape of a disk, making sure not to overwork. Using a rolling pin, roll dough into an oval that is about 1/4-inch thick. Set the pasta machine to the largest opening setting (usually #1), and crank dough through to form a sheet. With sheet laid horizontally, fold one side to meet 3/4 of the way, and fold the other side over that, creating a letter fold (see above, left). Feed fold through machine, creating a rectangle with neat edges. Adjust machine to the next smallest setting, and feed sheet through again; repeat this step, using a smaller setting each time until you’ve used the smallest setting. Starting two inches from an edge, place about 1 teaspoon of filling in the middle of pasta sheet. Repeat across sheet, leaving about 2 inches between each teaspoon of filling (see above, middle). Fold sheet in half so top edge meets bottom edge. Using a knife or ravioli roller, cut in between each filling dollop to form ravioli. Press edges of each ravioli with your fingers to seal, moistening your fingertips with water if necessary. Place ravioli on a sheet pan sprinkled with flour; refrigerate, or wrap in plastic and freeze for up to two weeks. (When ready to use frozen ravioli, follow cooking procedure below.) Repeat until all dough or filling is used.

To make sauce: In a sauté pan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add shallots and sage leaves, and sauté for about 4 minutes, until cooked but not brown. Add 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, increase heat to high, and simmer until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To cook and serve: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Gently add ravioli and cook until they float, about 3 minutes. Drain ravioli, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water. Return pot to medium-high heat, and add ravioli, sauce and reserved water. Gently fold with rubber spatula until ravioli are coated. Plate, and top with parmesan cheese and chopped hazelnuts. Serve immediately.