Butternut Squash Ravioli with Caramelized Onions

I have always enjoyed fall far more than any time of year. Perhaps because it’s the season into which I was born. (Today, in fact, is my birthday! But shhh, let’s not make a big deal about that now. There’s a birthday treat post coming up next, and we can talk all about it then.) It’s a beautiful time in the northeast. The air feels electric. I crave new things.

In the past few years, as I began to focus more on eating seasonally and enjoyed the benefits of a modest-yet-fruitful garden, I discovered another exciting aspect of the season: preservation. I take a bizarre amount of pleasure in tackling mounds of fruits and vegetables — methodically breaking down and repurposing them into something with a much longer shelf life. So when I was house sitting the other week and my mother presented me with a near-10lb butternut squash from her garden, I knew what I as going to spend the next two evenings doing. Half of it turned into two quarts of soup. The other half became a purée with sage and parmesan, which was then divided up between a pizza and these ravioli. All of them went into the freezer (which I then opened about once an hour in order to gaze upon my creations). Giant butternut squash: VANQUISHED!

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Roasted Mushroom Ravioli
with Thyme & Garlic Scapes

I’m sitting here, staring at these little ravioli on my computer screen, trying to think of something nice to say about them. And I’m finding it rather difficult. Not because they weren’t good — they were, in fact, quite good (aside from a mediocre pasta dough experiment, which I will address at a later date). But because I’m sitting in my 91° room, while a fan blasts 91° heat towards my face at high speeds long after the sun has set. So when I look at these ravioli, all I can see is warm, hearty food that was cooked over a pot of boiling hot water, then tossed into a sizzling hot frying pan. Not the sort of thing one dreams about on an evening like this, when throwing together a minimum-effort burrito and cracking a cold beer feels borderline commendable. But a few days days ago, in the balmy 78° weather, these things really hit the spot. So I will now attempt to transport my consciousness back in time, so that I may present these things with the level of enthusiasm they deserve.

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Beet & Chèvre Ravioli Hearts

Ha! Look at these silly things. (They’re pretty adorable, aren’t they?)

Cutsey-wootsy relationship stuff—usually not my thing. Pet names? Ick. Public affection? No way.  (One of my boyfriend’s favorite ways to torment me is to try to hold my hand in public, then laugh as I uncomfortably squirm away.) But there’s just something about over-the-top food that I can’t resist! I’ve been making a delicious beet & chèvre ravioli for a couple years now. And I’ve happened upon a few posts for beet pasta in the past that involve squeezing beet juice directly into the dough. I started thinking about that pretty bright red dough recently, and a little heart-shaped cookie cutter just happened to find its way into my shopping basket a few days later. My fate was sealed. These cute ravioli were so happening.

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Vegan Sweet Potato, Coconut Milk,
& Roasted Chili Ravioli

That’s right—ravioli without cheese! You’re skeptical, aren’t you? I understand. (I ♥ cheese too.)

When it comes to vegan cooking and baking, cheese substitution is one of those things that gives me a headache. I’m a bit wary of soy-based alternatives, as they seem over-processed and unnatural in comparison. There are, of course, equally over-processed varieties of “cheese” that freak me out too! (Full disclosure: I did have a bizarre addiction to Tofutti cream cheese a year or so ago, and have been rather reluctant to group it into the Weird Fake Cheese category. But the editor in me demands consistency above all else!) Another interesting alternative that I’ve come across online is blending together nuts, nutritional yeast, and other stuff to make a creamy, cheese-like substitute. This usually involves soaking the nuts overnight, which is far more than I care to go through to make fake cheese. (Also, the vegan community seems to invariably refer to this substance as “nut cheese”—a phrase that is so hilariously gross, I have trouble taking it seriously. Yes, deep down, I’m a 13-year-old boy. :P) So, my very simple solution: make a filling so tasty, it doesn’t need cheese. No headaches here!

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Pumpkin & Sage Ravioli

I finally did it. I put pumpkin in something that isn’t a cookie. Or a muffin. Or a cinnamon roll. It’s taken over a year, but can you blame me? With so many other dinner-friendly varieties of squash out there, the adorable little pumpkin begs to be lovingly cradled from the store all the way to the kitchen, then turned into delectable treats. (I refuse to believe that I’m the only person who carefully searches the pumpkin pile until I’m sure I’ve found the cutest one, then proudly parades it around the store.)

This was my second attempt at a savory pumpkin dish. The first, sadly, was not a success. I made pumpkin gnudi that were more like boiled pumpkin paste blobs than pasta. (As I started to make the dough, it quickly became apparent to me that my pumpkin purée was too watery. I attempted to compensate by adding more egg, cheese, and flour, but it did not do the trick.) Luckily, I did not give up on pumpkin for dinner! And these ravioli were far better. I have since seen a few pumpkin gnocchi/gnudi dishes kicking around the gawkerverse, so I will definitely be giving that one a try again. (I will not be outdone!) ;)

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