Squash season is in full swing. There are bins and bins of these beta-carotene-rich vegetables waiting to be roasted, sauteed or boiled for myriad dishes.
The bell-shaped butternut squash seems to be a favorite. It may have something to do with the fact that the skin is thin, making it easier to peel and cut than many other varieties.
Its nutrient-rich orange flesh is an excellent source of beta-carotene, vitamins A and C and fiber. One cup of cubed butternut squash has about 6 grams of fiber, is low in calories and has no fat.
To cut a butternut squash, peel it first. Cut the stem and base ends off and, holding the squash upright on the cut end, slice it vertically down the middle.
You also can always ask the folks in the produce area of your store to cut a squash for you. A cut squash is best cooked within a day or two.
Butternut squash makes a great filling for ravioli, and an easy way to make ravioli without having to make your own pasta dough is to use egg roll wrappers.
Egg roll wrappers are sold in the produce section of many grocery stores. At my local Meijer, they are near the fresh Asian noodles and tofu. A packet of about 20 squares (6-by-6-inches) is about $2.
One wrapper will make two large ravioli with 2 to 3 tablespoons of filling in each. Cut the wrapper in half and place a mound of filling on one wrapper, leaving room to fold it over. Brush the edges with an egg wash and fold the wrapper over the filling. Press to seal. Cut into squares or use a biscuit cutter to cut into rounds.
You also can use one sheet to make four ravioli by placing another sheet on top. Visually divide the wrapper in quarters and place a mound of filling in the center of each quarter. Brush with an egg wash all around the edges and near the filling and place a second wrapper on top. Press around the fillings so everything seals, then cut apart.
When making ravioli this way, it's important to make sure you have a good seal so the ravioli don't split open when you boil them.
If you don't use all the egg roll wrappers, you can freeze them up to 2 months. I find it best to defrost them in the microwave and use them right away. The longer they are left to defrost in the refrigerator, it seems, the more they stick together.
> SQUASH RAVIOLI WITH SAGE CREAM SAUCE
1 medium butternut squash (or favorite winter squash)
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch red pepper flakes
1/4 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus 2 tablespoons for garnish
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
4 fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped
1 package egg roll or wonton wrappers
1 egg beaten with 2 teaspoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large shallot, peeled, finely minced
3/4 cup dry white wine or chicken broth
1 cup fat-free or low-fat half-and-half
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage or 1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage
Sage leaves for garnish, optional
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peel the squash, cut in half and remove the seeds. Place the squash pieces on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until squash is tender. Place in a mixing bowl. Add the ricotta and Parmesan cheeses, nutmeg, chopped sage and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Mash ingredients together with a potato masher. Set aside.
When using egg roll or wonton wrappers, work with one sheet at a time, placing it on a work surface. Keep unused wrappers covered so they don't dry out. Use 1 sheet of the wrapper to make two ravioli. Scoop about one heaping tablespoon of the squash mixture for each ravioli onto the bottom half of the wrapper. Brush with egg wash around the filling and on the wrapper. Fold top half of the egg roll wrapper over the squash mixture. You can leave it square or crimp the edge; repeat with remaining filling. Press edges all around the filling to seal. Prepare up to two hours ahead; cover and refrigerate until needed. The ravioli also can be frozen in a single layer and then transferred to freezer bags.
To make the sauce: Heat butter in a medium skillet. Add shallot and saute until tender and fragrant. Add white wine or broth and bring to a boil until reduced by half. Mix together the half-and-half and cornstarch and slowly whisk into the skillet. Cook until the sauce thickens, 6 to 8 minutes. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the sage; keep warm.
To cook ravioli: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Working in batches, add the ravioli to the boiling water and cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until they float to the surface and the pasta is tender. Remove carefully with a slotted spoon.
Place the ravioli in a shallow dish and drizzle with the cream sauce. Garnish with additional sage leaves as desired and Parmesan cheese.
Serves 4 generously.
436 calories (28 percent from fat), 14g fat (4g sat. fat), 61g carbohydrates, 14g protein, 802mg sodium, 57mg cholesterol, 3g fiber.