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Oct 13

Autumnal acorn squash tortelli

An illustration for Acorn Squash Tortelli recipeTortelli, tortellini, tortelloni, ravioli: there are more types of stuffed pasta than you can shake a fist at.

I have chosen tortelli, a larger version of tortellini, which means less fiddling around with pasta rounds and larger pieces to fit into greedy mouths. For a more delicate offering, simply use a smaller diameter of cutter, but be prepared for more work. If you prefer to forget about using a pastry cutter altogether then make ravioli which is a quicker process involving two flat sheets of pasta, sandwiched with the filling, then cut in a grid to form squares.

Whatever type of pasta you choose to make, it will make no difference to the taste of this fantastic autumn dish. Follow the recipe, decide what shape you want to form your pasta into, and call it what you will.

This pasta does not need any fancy sauces or adornments. To serve, simply pour over a little melted butter and sprinkle over freshly grated parmesan.

Recipe: acorn squash tortelli with parmesan

Tortelli filling ingredients

  • 1 acorn squash
  • 1oz / 25g butter  (plus an extra 1oz / 25g to serve)
  • ½ red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large free-range egg, lightly beaten (reserve about 2 tsp for assembling the pasta)
  • 20z / 50g parmesan, finely grated  (plus an extra 1oz / 25g to serve)
  • ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

Pasta dough ingredients

  • 200g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten

Making the tortelli filling

Preheat your oven to 180°C. Cut the squash in half then place the two halves back together (this just makes it easier to check when it is cooked). Wrap the squash in foil and bake until the flesh is tender – around 1 hour.

Scoop out the seeds from the squash and discard. You can either peel the skin off, or scoop the flesh out with a spoon: whatever you find easier. You should end up with about 1lb 5oz / 600g cooked weight. Chop the flesh into smallish pieces. Season well with salt and pepper.

Melt the butter in a large frying pan and cook the onion until soft and just turning golden brown at the edges. Tip in the chopped squash and continue to cook for another few minutes to let the flavours mingle. If the pieces of squash are still fairly chunky, break them down a little with the back of a spoon.

Remove from the heat and set aside to cool while you make the pasta (instructions below).

When the mixture has cooled, add in the egg, parmesan and nutmeg. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Making the pasta dough

Sift the flour into a bowl, make a well in the centre and add the eggs. Use a flexible dough scraper, or spatula to bring the ingredients together then use you hands to form the mixture into a ball. Knead the dough for around 10 minutes until smooth. If you have a food mixer with a dough hook, you can cheat and let this do the kneading for you.

If you are lucky enough to have a pasta machine (and don’t happen to have misplaced it like I have) feel free to use this to roll your pasta out to the required thickness.

Otherwise, split your pasta into two portions. Roll each piece out, on a floured work surface or board,  to an even thickness of about 1mm.

Use a round pastry/scone cutter, around 7cm / 3″ in diameter to stamp out circular pasta shapes. (Of course, feel free to cut any other shape instead if you wish. My only advice: keep it simple. Don’t try to capture the likeness of a loved one to create a pasta tribute, for example.)

If the pasta is sticking, or difficult to cut, flour the surface of the rolled dough and the inside of the cutter. To aid removal from the surface later, rub a little flour onto the underside of the round before setting them down.

Repeat the cutting process until you have used all the pasta dough.  The dough will become tough if rolled again, so keep each cut close together to get as many rounds as possible. Any leftover dough can be cut up into mis-shapes that can be used in salads, or soup.  Just leave the pieces to dry and store in an air-tight container until required.

Assembling the tortelli

You will need: the cooled filling, the pasta shapes, the reserved beaten egg (if you have used this, don’t panic – use a little milk instead).

A diagram showing how to fill tortelli parcels

Use a teaspoon to put dollops of mixture onto one half of the pasta rounds. Leave room around the edges, and don’t overdo the amount or they will not seal properly.

Using a pastry brush or the tip of your finger, brush some melted butter around the circumference of the pasta round. Pull one half of the pasta over the filling to form a semi-circle and pinch the dough around the edges to seal.

Repeat until you have used all the pasta rounds.

Cook the tortelli in a large pan of salted boiling water for about 10 minutes. Drain well. 

Serve drizzled with melted butter and a liberal sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan.

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