pumpkin, pistachio and sage ravioli with a saffron cheese sauce

sorry for the quiet blog, it’s been a crazy few weeks – mystery bugs, food poisoning (avoid crystal palace football club!), a slip down the stairs (if anyone has any tips on how to sort out a bruised coccyx, let me know – 3 weeks on and i’m still in a lot of pain!) and a busy time at work.

however, i’m getting myself back on track and last weekend i made the effort to spend some time in the kitchen. i had a huge pumpkin which needed using so i roasted it with olive oil, chilli flakes, salt and pepper then settled down with my cookery books to find inspiration.

dennis cotter’s book was where i stopped and i decided to try his recipe for pumpkin, pistachio and sage ravioli with a saffron cheese sauce. stodge of the first degree but hopefully stodge that is soothing to make (kneading and stirring always calm me down) and delicious to eat.

sadly it wasn’t that simple. my beautiful orange pumpkin had very little flavour. i don’t know what variety it was but i’ll be sticking to butternut squash or specific varieties of pumpkin which i know taste good, such as those recommended by dennis cotter. the grey-green crown prince is a particular favourite of his.

the dish was a bit bland as a result which, for me, wasn’t helped by the very gentle flavours of the rest of the dish. i tried to add a bit of interest with some wilted spinach and a fresh tomato sauce (olive oil, garlic and tomatoes slow-cooked to make a thick sauce). the sauce really helped balance the mildly flavoured nut and pumpkin ravioli and the rich and creamy saffron cheese sauce.

this is not my kind of dish but if you want soothing stodge in the style of macaroni cheese (which i do love and it is my first choice on cold wet days) then maybe you’ll enjoy eating this as much as i enjoyed making it.

dennis cotter’s pumpkin, pistachio and sage ravioli with a saffron cheese sauce (serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a main)

for the ravioli:

100g fine durum wheat flour (i use 00 flour for making pasta)

salt and pepper

1 egg

2 teaspoons water

150g peeled and seeded crown prince pumpkin

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 tablespoons water

2 teaspoons sage leaves, chopped

15g shelled and coarsely chopped pistachios (i used pecans)

25g hard cheese such as parmesan

for the saffron cheese sauce:

25g butter

25g plain flour

400ml milk

1 large pinch saffron threads

80g mature cheddar

50ml double cream

to make the ravioli, sift the flour into a bowl with a good pinch of salt, add the egg and 2 teaspoons of water and bring them all together with your hands to form a dough. knead for 1 minute then leave the dough to rest under a cloth.

cut the pumpkin flesh into 1cm cubes. heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and add the diced pumpkin. fry over a medium heat for about 10 minutes, until lightly caramelised. add 3 tablespoons water and the sage and cook for a few minutes more, then remove from the heat and mash the pumpkin in the pan. add the pistachios and the cheese and season well with salt and pepper.

the pasta dough should be soft and easy to roll. flatten it out and pass it through a pasta machine with the rollers at the widest setting, then fold it and pass it through again. do this three or four times. cut the dough in half and fold it to make two pieces 2cm x 10cm. continue to pass through the pasta machine, reducing  the thickness of the sheet each time by adjusting the rollers. after the lowest setting you should have two sheets of equal length and about 7cm wide. arrange twelve separate teaspoons of filling on one sheet about 3cm apart. dampen the uncovered edges of the pasta with water. place the other sheet of pasta on top, pressing down around the mixture to create ravioli shapes and remove any air bubbles. cut out twelve individual ravioli and cover them with a damp cloth while you make the sauce.

to make the sauce, melt the butter in a medium saucepan, add the flour and cook over a low heat for 2 minutes, stirring. add the milk, stirring to incorporate the butter and flour, bring it to the boil and whisk for 1 minute. add the saffron, reduce the heat and simmer for 15minutes, stirring occasionally. this time is necessary to bring out the full flavour and colour of the saffron. stir in the cheddar and the cream. season with salt and pepper and keep the sauce warm while you cook the ravioli.

bring a large pan of water to the boil and drop in the ravioli, return to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for 3 minutes until cooked, then drain.

to serve, divide half the sauce between warmed plates, arrange the ravioli on top abnd pour the remaining sauce over them