Butternut Squash Agnolotti with Cilantro Pesto

It has been a while since I made filled pasta. That is only good, common sense, since filling pasta is extremely time consuming. Also, I’m not yet particularly good at it. My agnolotti leak and my ravioli never get properly plump. Still, a result of imperfect pasta pillows doesn’t petrify me. It’s not like getting peer-reviews back on a journal submission, after all. So every once in a while, I get back to trying to fill pasta (just for the record, I also diligently get back to my papers’ reviewers).

So far, I’ve experimented with fillings of egg yolks, beet greens, and ricotta. Two large butternut squashes in our fridge last week made the filling decision easy with this round of filled pasta, and I was overall extremely pleased with the result. Although, as the picture reveals, I still have a ways to go before I realistically claim to have filled pasta. Oh well, with some pesto on top, who’s to know? (Unless you happen to be writing a blog about all your cooking of course…)

I decided to make agnolotti rather than ravioli, because I have this idea that agnolotti are easier. I have no evidence for this, whatsoever, but nonetheless the idea persists. So with my butternut squashed cooked and mashed for the filling, I set out to decide what I wanted to serve the agnolotti with.

Obviously, I had something of an idea of this, based on what was in my fridge, as always. We’ve been getting cilantro in our CSA box lately, and I thought this would be interesting with the butternut squash. I made things easy on myself and made a pesto. I’m not sure why I thought it would be a good idea to use orange instead of lemon in this pesto, but that is what I did, and it was in fact a good idea. I also used almonds instead of pine nuts, because I always have the former in the pantry but never the latter. The combination of the orange and almonds with the cilantro made this pesto so deliciously savory. I didn’t expect this at all, because you know how cilantro tends to be perfumed and almost flowery? But something about this pesto processing brought out lesser known qualities of the cilantro, and it was good! Made me wish I had made a double portion, as we ate it all in one sitting.

I didn’t exactly succeed in making my agnolotti. There’s a step where you pinch pasta dough and filling to create individual pockets, which you later separate by cutting. Sadly, I not only separated the individual pasta pockets, but also the pasta layers that were supposed to keep the filling in. Still not entirely sure what happened, but it resulted in the cooking water becoming a beautiful orange color by the time the pasta was cooked. I called it butternut stock and stored it in the fridge. Lemons to lemonade and all that.

So in conclusion: while my agnolotti still need work, I was on top of my pesto game this week. You can find the recipe for the whole ensemble below. And because it’s pretty much impossible to make agnolotti the first time without any visual aid, here’s a link to a greatly helpful step-by-step tutorial by the kitchn. And if you’re not making agnolotti for the first time and you have some tips for me, I’d love to hear from you!

 

            

 

Butternut Squash Agnolotti with Cilantro Pesto

Ingredients

Pasta Dough

  • 3 cups flour (plus a bit extra to adjust)
  • 3 eggs

Cilantro Pesto

  • 1 small bundle fresh cilantro
  • 30 grams almonds
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 orange (juice)
  • 3 tbsp oil (I use sunflower oil)
  • 1/3 tsp vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Pasta Filling

  • 400 grams butternut squash puree
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 20 grams sharp cheddar
  • 1/2 tsp vinegar
  • 3 pinches smoked paprika
  • 1 pinch coriander (ground)

Instructions

Pasta Dough

  1. Put the flour on your work surface and create a well in the middle.  

  2. Add the eggs to the well and mix the two by circling your fingers in the egg, continuously adding a little flour from the sides of the well as you go.

  3. When the dough begins to come together, knead with both hands until you have a dough that is moist but doesn't get stuck on the counter. You may not have incorporated all the flour, but that is ok.

  4. Cover the dough in plastic wrap, and let it sit on the counter for 30 -60 minutes. Prepare the filling and the pesto in the meantime. 

Cilantro Pesto

  1. Put all the ingredients except for vinegar and orange juice in a food processor and pulse several times. 

  2. Scrape down the sides and add half the orange juice, then blend for 15 seconds. 

  3. Taste the pesto. If it needs more liquid, and you can't yet sense the orange, add more orange juice. If you content with the amount of orange, you can add more oil or a bit of water to increase the liquid if you need to. 

  4. Blend for another 20-30 seconds, but be careful not to make the pesto too fine - it should have a bit of crunch.

  5. Add the vinegar one drop at a time, pulsing to incorporate and tasting after each drop. When you're happy with the acidity, the pesto is done. 

  6. Cover the pesto with cling film, and store in the fridge until the pasta is ready.

Pasta Filling

  1. First make sure your butternut squash puree is not too watery - it has to be able to hold its shape when you place it on the pasta later. If you think your puree is too loose, you can cook it over medium-low heat to evaporate some water before you add the other ingredients. Just make sure the puree has cooled before you proceed.

  2. In a bowl, press the garlic and grate the cheese, then mix in the butternut squash puree. 

  3. Add the spices and vinegar bit by bit until you are happy with the taste. 

Rolling, Filling and Cooking the Agnolotti

  1. Put a big pot of salted water on the stove and start it heating while you're making the agnolotti. You want it to be boiling when the pasta is ready. 

  2. Split your pasta dough into 3 parts, and roll them out by hand or with a pasta maker. The sheets should be thin, but not flimsy (not the thinnest setting on the pasta maker). Cover each sheet after making it, to prevent it from drying out. 

  3. Put the filling in a pastry bag, and pipe a line of filling onto the pasta sheet, about 2 cm (3/4 inch) from the bottom and left/right edges. The filling should be around 1.5 cm (1/2 inch) in diameter. 

  4. Fold the long edge nearest to the filling up and over it. Make a seal 1.5 cm (0.6 inch) wide by gently pressing with your fingers. If you're having trouble, paste a bit of water between the layers of dough.

  5. Separate the filled dough from the rest of the pasta sheet by cutting along the double layer of dough in the seal, creating a neat and even edge. 

  6. Now pinch the filling into equal-sized, individual portions inside the dough tube. The pinching both separates the filling and creates a seal between portions. Make sure your seals are around 2 cm (3/4 inch) wide, otherwise you risk the filling spilling out (which seems to happen to me anyway, but I'm sure practice will eventually make perfect).

  7. Make the tube into individual agnolotti by cutting in the middle of each seal. Use a crimped pasta wheel to make it look cute. A pizza cutter works too (as does a knife, duh), but it's less cute. Cut so that you cut the seal of the tube last, and while you're cutting, gently lean the pasta tube towards the seal. This creates a nice additional little fold on the outside of the agnolotti for pasta sauce to gather in. If it stays sealed anyway.

  8. Place each agnolotti in a tray or on a cutting board. Dust with flour or cornmeal to prevent sticking. Continue filling and cutting the remaining sheets of pasta dough. 

  9. If you are using your agnolotti right away, proceed to cook them immediately. At this stage, you can also freeze them

    To cook, gently dump the agnolotti into your pot of boiling water. Depending on the size of your pot, you might want to cook in batches. When the pasta rises to the surface, it is done. This should be around 3-5 minutes. 

  10. Divide the pasta between your plates. Get your pesto out of the fridge and gently spoon on top of the agnolotti. Serve immediately. 

Notes

If, like mine, your agnolotti lost some filling during the boiling, don't despair. Instead of draining the pot when the agnolotti are done, you can remove them with a slotted spoon. That let's you keep the cooking water, which you can use as a stock. 

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