As you know, I have, over the last few months, lost my taste for food. I’m sure for many pregnant women, those who dread cooking or find it difficult, this would not be the end of the world. But, I have to tell you, for a girl who loves to be in the kitchen, relying on peanut butter sandwiches and smoothies for nutrients has not been much fun. I guess I should have relished the break from cooking, as my husband cheerfully took over, but instead, I felt like a big part of my day was missing.
And I didn’t like it one bit.
In the midst of this cooking hiatus, I often scanned my favorite food blogs, searching for inspiration, hoping that something would awaken my nausea-weary tastebuds. For whatever reason (only the hormonal monsters in my body know for sure), one afternoon, a ravioli recipe that I’d bookmarked months and months ago from Chez Megane suddenly sounded good. Nevermind that I didn’t have sweet potatoes or ricotta cheese. I did have a butternut squash, one that had been looking longingly at me from the pantry for several days since I picked it up from the farmer’s market, and I had wonton wrappers. And, miracle of all miracles, I actually had an appetite!
I put on some music and an apron and went to work. I cut the squash in half, smeared it with a bit of butter, molasses, and basalmic vinegar, and popped it into the oven. I harvested the last good leaves of our sad sage bush (which has since gone on to herb heaven, rest in peace), and carefully laid out all the ingredients I would need. I chopped garlic and beat an egg and grated Parmesan cheese. In fact, I decided while I was there, I might as well busy myself until the squash was finished and cool enough to handle. So I baked some bread and made granola.
And, dear reader, I am happy to report that when the ravioli was plated up and ready, I was starving. It tasted like the best meal I’d had in weeks. I know not everyone understands this, but, oh, the pleasure of preparation — of getting my hands dirty and anticipating the way the flavors and textures will taste in my mouth: this is what I’d been missing.
And, ever since I made that discovery, I’ve felt more like myself every day.
Butternut Ravioli with Sage Butter and Italian Sausage
1 1/4 cups of cooked, mashed winter squash
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 t. freshly grated nutmeg
About a dozen sage leaves
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded, plus extra for serving
1 egg plus water
Wonton wrappers or pasta sheets
4 T. butter
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 link Italian sausage, sliced into rounds (you could, of course, leave this out for a vegetarian meal)
In a heavy-bottomed skillet, melt a tablespoon of butter. Saute the garlic over medium-low heat until translucent and very soft. Chop a few of the sage leaves and add them to the skillet. Sprinkle with Kosher salt and saute for another minute or so, until the leaves crisp up a little bit.
In a large bowl, scrape the contents of the skillet in with the mashed squash. Add the Parmesan and nutmeg, and combine well. Set aside.
Now, I am funny about the wonton wrappers: I don’t think they hold up very well unless they’re doubled up. So, I use 4 wrappers per ravioli, brushing one side of a wonton wrapper with egg wash and then laying another wrapper on top of it, pressing to seal. I repeat this process with another pair of wrappers. Then, spoon filling on top of one double sheet, then top with the other double sheet and seal the edges with egg wash. It’s a little extra trouble to do it this way, but I once had a whole batch fall apart in the boiling water with only single sheets, so I prefer to play it safe. (Of course, homemade pasta would be best).
Once the ravioli are assembled, set them aside. Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the ravioli and cook until they float, about 3 or 4 minutes. (You may have to do this in batches). Drain and arrange on plates.
While the ravioli are cooking, brown the sausage in the skillet (the one you cooked the garlic in) until cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon. Add the butter and cook over medium until it’s just beginning to turn golden. Add the pine nuts and remaining whole sage leaves. Stir and cook until the sage leaves are crispy. Watch carefully so that the butter doesn’t burn. Divide the sauce evenly between the plates of ravioli. Top with the sausage and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serves 2 hungry people for dinner, with a couple of extra ravioli left over.