Halloween is right around the corner, so we know our Humble Gardener readers have pumpkin on the brain. Whether you’re fortunate enough to have your own pumpkin patch or you pick pumpkins at a local farm, you can do plenty more with everyone’s favorite autumn squash than carve a Jack-O-Lantern. If you’re feeling more ambitious this year, swap your pumpkin pie recipe for pumpkin tortelli. Or better yet– make both this year!
Pasta filled with pumpkin is a common treat in the plains of north-central Italy, where pumpkins grow in abundance and local bakers’ shelves are always stocked with rows of plump tortelli di zucca. What exactly are tortelli? Basically a fancy name for ravioli that are found around the towns of Mantua and Ferrara, Italy. But no need to travel abroad to sample these flavors. You can make the pasta fresh at home, and scoop out pumpkin from your own patch or a local farm for the filling. If you’ve got an herb garden, even better– Sage leaves for the decadent tortelli topping can come straight from your plants!
This recipe’s origins trace back to Italian nobility in the lovely town of Mantua, near the Po River. But pumpkin itself wasn’t found only in royal dining halls. Far from it. After its import from the Americas in the 1500s, the pumpkin was diffused across the world, grown on all corners of the globe and sold for cheap. It was also a staple in the diets of the poorest of society.
If you’ve got about two pounds of pumpkin handy, you’re on your way to making this dish your own. So go out to the patch, grab a pumpkin, and head to the kitchen!
Pumpkin Tortelli (Tortelli di Zucca)
- 2 pounds pumpkin
- 6 tablespoonds of grated parmesan cheese
- Pinch of Salt
- Lemon juice
- 6 amaretto cookies, crushed into fine crumbs
- 1 cup breadcrumbs (possibly oven roasted)
- olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups white flour
- 2 eggs
- olive oil
Sage Butter Sauce
- 7 tablespoons butter
- 6 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
- Sage leaves
1. To make filling, remove seeds from pumpkin without taking away peel. Cut the pumpkin into slices place them on a roasting pan. Sprinkle the pumpkin with salt and drizzle it in olive oil. Cover the pan with foil and bake at 350 F for 45-50 minutes, until the pumpkin softens (it should be tender when pierced with a knife).
Remove pumpkin from oven and let cool. Then scrape pumpkin flesh away from the skin. Place the flesh in a muslin cloth or a fine sieve and hang overnight above a bowl in a cool place to drain off all the excess liquid. If you are in a rush, wait for the filling to cool down before processing it.
Next, place pumpkin in a food processer and blend it until smooth. The pumpkin should have a pulp-like consistency. You can also mix the pumpkin manually, if you prefer. Now add the rest of the filling ingredients listed above. The lemon juice, nutmeg, and salt are used as seasoning and added to taste. Mix everything thoroughly! The filling should be firm and stick together loosely when formed into a ball.
2. To make pasta dough, combine flour and salt and form a well in the center. Then combine eggs and olive oil. Pour 2/3 of the egg and olive oil mixture into the well, saving the final third. Starting from the outside, work the flour into the liquid until a dough forms. You’ll have to knead it until it is smooth, firm and elastic– this may take up to 10 minutes. Cover the dough in plastic wrap and leave it in the fridge for at least an hour (but no more than 24 hours) before using it.
3. To make tortelli, you’ll need a pasta machine. Separate your dough into quarters and work with one portion at a time, kneading it and rolling it in the past machine on the next-to-thinnest setting.
Roll out and cut up the pasta dough (cut into 3-4 pieces), and use a rolling pin to flatten a piece to the width of your pasta machine. Run it twice through the narrowest notch. Using a serrated pastry wheel, cut into a long strip 10cm wide.
Put 1 heaping teaspoon of filling at 2cm intervals along each strip of pasta. Fold over the long side of pasta nearest to you. Cup your hand and carefully press down around each mound to get all the air out. Using a serrated pastry wheel, cut out individual tortelli about 3cm square. Diagonally fold over 1 corner of rectangle to meet opposite corner to form “paper hat”.
Set aside on floured kitchen towel and repeat until all dough is used up. To prevent sticking together, freeze the tortelli before cooking them.
4. To make sage butter, you’ll need 6 whole Sage leaves. First put your butter in a saucepan and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Make sure to whisk it frequently. Then add three whole Sage leaves. Let them brown, then remove them and save for garnish. Next, chope three Sage leaves and add them to the boiling butter. Immediately turn off burner.
5. To cook the tortelli, bring salted water to a boil and add frozen tortelli. Cook 3-5 minutes, drain, and serve in a warm dish! Make sure to drizzle the tortelli wish Sage butter, sprinkle the Sage leaves on top and add some grated parmesan to finish it off.
Recipe adapted from Seven Fishes Blog.