Thanksgiving, to the frustration of some, is rife with tradition. Mess with someone’s holiday traditions (“But we’ve always had marshmallows with the candied sweet potatoes!”) and you’re likely to find yourself on the defense.
The decision to embrace vegetarianism or veganism often means facing a table full of not-always-noncarnivore-friendly traditions. It doesn’t have to be that way and others have very neatly overcome that obstacle. Nearly 40 years ago, vegetarian cookbook author Anna Thomas observed “I think part of the trick was to observe as many traditions as possible: the few that were missing were hardly missed.”
Taking a cue from an Italian-American tradition, raviolis at Thanksgiving, and a popular food trend from a few years back, I came up with this recipe for squash and sweet potato-filled ravioli in walnut sauce. I particularly like that it borrows from a food tradition born in this country with obvious roots overseas. Squash, of course, is as American as one could hope for an ingredient being native to the Americas and eaten as long ago as 5000 BC. The sweet potato, too, is indigenous to the Americas and was cultivated as long as 2,000 years ago. The strong notes of sage in the walnut sauce bring out a traditional Thanksgiving flavor (sage stuffing, anyone?).
The dough is made from all-purpose flour and an emulsification of olive oil and water. Traditionally, the dough for ravioli includes eggs, but the most important aspect of the eggs is the fat and the water they contain. I use a good table variety of extra virgin olive oil; there’s no need to use a more expensive kind. As for making the raviolis themselves, follow the directions that come with your pasta machine (I use an Atlas pasta machine I bought at a yard sale for $10) or roll the dough out with a rolling pin.
Squash and sweet potato ravioli with walnut sauce
4 cups white all-purpose flour
2/3 cup olive oil
1 1/3 cup water
2 tsp salt
Emulsify oil and water together and then pour as much as is needed into flour and salt in a large mixing bowl (you may not need all the liquid), stirring until a dough begins to form. Remove from bowl and begin kneading dough for ten minutes, until it is smooth and elastic. Wrap in plastic and set aside for 30 minutes to an hour.
Makes enough dough for about 60 raviolis.
1 cup baked sweet potato
1 cup baked butternut squash
Zest of half an orange
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp olive oil
1/16 tsp cayenne
Salt and pepper to taste
Using a hand-held mixer or food processor, combine all the ingredients, mixing until they’re completely combined and smooth.
1 cup toasted walnuts, plus another 1/2 cup or so to set aside
1 cup good olive oil
2 heads shallots, minced
½ cup vegetable stock
Juice of half a lemon
6 leaves of sage, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat and add shallots, sage, and garlic when the oil begins to release its scent. Lower the heat, simmer for about five minutes, and then set aside to cool.
Place walnuts in a blender or food processor with the vegetable stock, and add the oil and vegetable mixture gradually, pulsing the blades until you have a smooth sauce. Add lemon juice to taste. Throw in the walnuts you set aside and pulse just enough to chop them into small pieces.
Filling and cutting the ravioli
Roll out one length of dough and cut it into a strip about 4 inches wide. Brush the dough lightly with water, and place teaspoons of the filling every 2 inches, about 1 inch from one edge of the dough. Fold the dough over, being sure to gently press out any of the air pockets that form. Use a fluted pastry wheel or knife to cut the dough into 2-inch squares. Press the edges down to make sure everything is sealed tightly. Set the individual raviolis aside on a cloth towel or parchment paper, being sure that they aren’t touching another (they’ll stick if they do, and then tear easily).
When the sauce is ready, it’s time to cook the pasta. Add them gently to a large pot of boiling, salted water. If you’re cooking them shortly after making them, they should only take three or four minutes. Taste one before emptying the pot; if they’re not done, cook them for another minute or until they’re tender with just a bit of a bite.
Spoon sauces over ravioli, garnish with sage leaves or chopped parsley, and serve.