I’ve, regrettably, spent the first 25 years of my life ‘not that into’ mushrooms (the culinary ones, anyway). I’m not sure what launched the drastic change of tastes, but…yeah, I’m really into mushrooms lately. I haven’t made a single special meal without including them in months. I even made a creamy mushroom taco filler, with a sauce made from queso fresco and tons (and tons) of chilis. It was based off of a dish I had at a restaurant in Washington DC last week, called Oyamel Cocina Mexicana…See? I’m so into mushrooms I’m even ordering them off of one of the biggest and most enticing menus I’ve had the pleasure of ordering from. Speaking of DC, here’s a picture of me (hey) and my sister at the United States Botanical Gardens. One day, if that day hasn’t already come, you’ll be sick of seeing this picture.
Mushrooms have long been associated with longevity and strength. In ancient Egypt they were a rare delicacy only royalty could eat and represented immortality. There aren’t many common foods that are resourceful as mushrooms…we use them culinarily, medicinally, topically in beauty products, recreationally, as fabric dye and even filtration devices. I just put a book on identifying Midwestern mushrooms on hold at the library, so hopefully before winter arrives I’ll be able to take my newfound interest in mushrooms to another level.
I made this pesto on three occasions now and right away fell deeply in love with the combination of flavors in a way I never have before. I was really, really proud of myself for creating it, like how I imagine Jonbenet Ramsey’s parents must’ve felt as she was being crowned Little Miss Colorado. That first time was very early on one cold, windy morning before Burton and I went canoeing the Milwaukee River. The pesto makes for the most incredible pizza sauce that has ever existed. Here’s a picture from that morningthat I posted on my Instagram (which I’m trying to be more active on since it’s such a good promotional tool).
This pesto is the embodiment of fall. I generally make it with just a few tablespoons of pumpkin, but as a ravioli filling it needed to be thicker/less oily. I’m sure making homemade pasta seems unnecessary to some, but I’d bet those people aren’t very fun to be around. Our old neighbors gave us this pasta maker when they moved out, but if you’re looking to buy one, I’d check a thrift store first since I’ve commonly seen them there. Making homemade pasta isn’t all that time consuming, is very straightforward and makes for a great special occasion dish. That special occasion, sometimes, is just ‘hey, it’s chilly out, let’s make a mess and dance around the kitchen together and eat amazing food for the next few hours, okay?’ And what an occasion it is…There’s a popular quote that reminds me of this situation: “it’s not the destination, but the journey that matters”
It took me about 10 minutes to form the dough and then it needs to rest for just enough time for you to assemble pesto. About 30 minutes to roll out and cook before you’re having one of the best meals of your life (I’d guarantee it if my word meant anything).
I served this with butternut squash fries (garnished with lemon juice, parsley and panko) as well as balsamic seared brussels sprouts (garnished with the roasted seeds from the butternut squash and parmesan). If you put the squash in the oven when you start rolling out the pasta, then throw the brussels sprouts into a very hot pan as you put the ravioli into boiling water, everything will be done at the same time. It was a deceptively simple meal and the best part is the ravioli freezes really well. It’s in your best interest to make…a lot.
Roasted Mushroom, Pumpkin & Sage Pesto
8 oz mushrooms, any type as long as they look really beautiful
4-5 garlic cloves
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup fresh sage
+/- 1/4 cup olive oil
Preheat oven to 450. Evenly space mushrooms on a baking sheet and bake for 10-20 minutes, until the kitchen is fragrant with the smell of mushroom and they are darkened and decreased in size. In a food processor or blender, add the garlic and sage. Process. Then add the mushrooms and pumpkin. Slowly pour in the olive oil until desired consistency (think like a pizza sauce, not a traditional oily pesto).
Roasted Mushroom, Pumpkin & Sage Filled Ravioli
~1 cup roasted mushroom, pumpkin & sage pesto
2 cups all purpose flour
4 yolks (save the whites!)
1 tsp salt
for garnish: 3 tbsp butter
1 small onion, cut into strips
On a large surface, pour out your two cups of flour and make a large well in the center. Pour the 2 whole eggs, 4 egg whites and salt into the well. With a fork, beat the eggs and slowly incorporate flour. Using the fork or a large spatula, keep incorporating more flour until a dough has formed. Form into a ball and knead, using the palm of your hand to push down and away, then turn it 45 degrees, reform it into a ball and repeat. Continue until it’s consistently smooth. Place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rest for ~30 minutes. Separate the dough into quarters and roll out just one quarter at a time, keeping the others from drying out under plastic wrap. Roll out until 1/2 inch thick, then run the dough through the pasta maker on the widest setting a few times to get the shape correct. Then lower your pasta maker to the second-to-last thinnest setting. Once rolled out, fold the sheet of dough down the midline to create a crease, then unfold it. Place dollops of the pesto, about 1 tbsp, evenly spaced with about a fingers-width in between, down one side of the sheet. Use the reserved egg whites to moisten the dough, then fold it over down the centerline again, gently patting around each dollop of pesto to create a tight seal. Cut out into even squares.
In a skillet on medium heat, add 1 tbsp of the butter. Add the onion, turn heat to low and let cook until caramelized, about 20 minutes.
Bring salted water to a low boil in a large pot. Add the filled ravioli and cook for 3 minutes or until floating. Strain, then cover with the butter and caramelized onions.