Butternut Squash Agnolotti with Sage Two Ways, and a Giveaway!

Some of the best savory dishes have just a touch of something sweet.  Maybe it’s just because I have an incorrigible sweet tooth, or maybe it’s because it’s just a little bit out of the ordinary.  And yet perhaps not so far out of the ordinary:  from honey mustard to meats braised with fruit to all the sweetness unearthed in a root vegetable, the line blurs a bit more than you’d expect.

Butternut Ravioli in Sage Brown Butter (3 of 6)

Recently Buitoni contacted us to try one of their new products, Roasted Butternut Squash Agnolotti (which is really just a pretty twist on ravioli–the pasta packet is made by folding a rectangle of dough in half to encase the filling, rather than ravioli where you sandwich it between two squares).  I recognized the inspiration for this pasta immediately:  the classic Italian combination of pasta with butternut squash, aged cheeses,  and amaretti–those intensely almondy, crumbly Italian cookies.  And I knew it instantly because it was a dish I unsuccesfully tried to chase down when my husband and I took our last big trip, B.C., to Florence Italy (B.C. as in, before children).  The server would shake his or her head, and inform me mi dispiace, but it wasn’t available that day.  Since I had chianina beef, wild boar stew, vin santo with cantucci wine, and freshly foraged mushrooms, I didn’t suffer too much.  Even so, I still recall my  thwarted attempts to incorporate cookies into my main meal.

Butternut Ravioli in Sage Brown Butter (1 of 6)

With an abundance of sage in my backyard herb garden, it only made sense to go grab a few handfuls to try with my agnolotti, and to try it a few different ways.

Butternut Ravioli in Sage Brown Butter (6 of 6)

One of the classic ways to enjoy this pasta dish is to dress it in a sage-brown butter sauce.  It’s remarkably simple to make but still feels elegant and just a bit fancy.  And who am I to argue with Italian culinary tradition (or carte blanche to use lots of brown butter?)  I’ve talked about brown butter before–it’s simply butter that you melt, and then keep cooking until it starts to caramelize.  It happens quickly, so you have to watch closely to make sure not to burn it, but it’s always easy for me to tell when it’s done:  a nutty aroma suddenly rises up from the pan and hits you, and you just know.  (In French, brown butter is called beurre noisette, in direct reference to that rich nuttiness).  It’s true kitchen alchemy (and terribly addictive).  And if you toss some sage leaves in the butter as you’re browning it, it’s the perfect companion to these agnolotti.

Butternut Ravioli in Sage Brown Butter (2 of 6)

Baked Butternut Ravioli (3 of 6)

As for the second take:  I’ve been making bechamel sauces a lot lately to make gratins with all those greens that come in my CSA box.  But like classic lasagna bolognese, or no less classic oven-baked macaroni and cheese, bechamel is an ideal base for baked pasta.  Bechamel is something that sounds a lot harder than it is–probably the apprehension of ending up with a lumpy, pasty mess.   Every time I add the milk to the butter-flour paste, I do have a moment of trepidation:  but with a little faith, and just a little vigorous whisking, it all blends together and suddenly it thickens.  I have a theory that bechamel is a more economic substitute for cream, although wikipedia provides a more refined pedigree.  In any case, it’s plenty rich enough on its own.

Baked Butternut Ravioli (1 of 6)

To make bechamel extra special, you need only steep some aromatics in your warm milk before proceeding.  So into my sauce went a few sprigs of sage.  I stirred the finished bechamel into my agnolotti, garnished them with a bit of pancetta, and slid them into the oven.  The pancetta and the ruffled edges of the pasta crisped up under the oven’s heat, a little bit of crunch against the creamy smooth sauce and the pureed squash.

Baked Butternut Ravioli (5 of 6)

I certainly would seek this agnolotti out in Florence again if the opportunity presented itself, but this can tide me over in the interim.

Now for the giveaway, and then on to the recipes:  If you want to try this yourself, Buitoni has generously provided us with a gift package to give away.  It will include an apron, kitchen towel, and medium-sized cutting board, and three coupons to use.  To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post before midnight EST on July 20, 2012.  The winner will be chosen at random.  For an extra chance to win, follow us on our Facebook page (and leave an additional comment telling us you have done so.  If you already follow us on facebook, leave an additional comment telling us–that counts too).  The winner will be chosen by a random number generator so be sure to leave a second comment about following us on facebook to get credit for your extra entry.  Good luck!  Note giveaway is only for US addresses only (as coupons are only redeemable in the US).

Full disclosure:  Buitoni kindly provided me with the agnolotti to try, but all opinions expressed here are my own.

Note on availability:   The Buitoni agnolotti are currently only available in the Northeast–more specifically, NY, NJ, MA, VT, MD, NH, RI, and PA, but you may be able to find a substitute where you live.

Sage and Brown Butter Sauce

  • 4T butter
  • 8-10 (2 sprigs) sage, leaves plucked off
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 9-ounce package Buitoni butternut squash agnolotti (or other butternut squash filled pasta)
Set a large pot to a boil to make the pasta.  When it boils, cook it according to the package instructions (4-6 minutes).  Remove with a slotted spoon to a serving bowl.
When you add the pasta to the boiling water, it’s time to start your brown butter sauce.  Heat the butter in a small saucepan or small skillet over medium heat.  After the butter melts, add the sage leaves.  Continue to cook–the butter will bubble up as the water evaporates, then subside and will start to turn brown (you may even see little brown solids falling to the bottom of the pan).  When this happens, you’ll notice a nutty aroma.  Remove from the heat, and pour over the pasta (including the leaves).  Grate lemon zest on top, and serve immediately.

Baked Butternut Squash Agnolotti with Sage Bechamel

  • 1/2c milk
  • 1 sprig (5 leaves) sage
  • several gratings of fresh nutmeg (or a pinch of grated nutmeg)
  • 1T butter
  • 1 1/2t flour
  • pinch salt
  • 1 9-ounce package Buitoni butternut squash agnolotti (or other butternut squash filled pasta)
  • 2 thinly sliced pieces of pancetta, chopped

Bring the milk almost to a boil (until little bubbles start to form along the circumference where the milk touches the pan).  Add the sage and grated nutmeg, and allow to steep for at least half an hour but preferably longer.  Remove the sage when ready to proceed.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 and start the hot water for your pasta.  Cook the pasta according to the package specifications (about 8-9 minutes).  Drain and set in a medium bowl.

Make the bechamel.  Cook the butter and flour together for a few minutes over medium heat, stirring.  Whisk in the milk little by little, blending the paste into the milk to form a sauce.  Keep cooking, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens.   (This only will take a few more minutes).  Whisk in the salt.  Stir into the pasta and then turn half of it into your baking dish.  Sprinkle with half your chopped pancetta.  Add the remainder of the pasta, then sprinkle with the rest of the pancetta.

Bake at 400 for 20 minutes until the pancetta has crisped up and the edges of the pasta have taken on a nice brown crust.

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50 thoughts on “Butternut Squash Agnolotti with Sage Two Ways, and a Giveaway!

  1. Sounds delicous. I used to work for Buitoni many years ago so would go to lots of tastings….no wonder I put on 8lbs in the first few months (especially as the same company also owns a premium ice cream brand and a chocolate range!).

  2. We’ve had tons of greens in our CSA, and only yesterday did it occur to me to make a gratin. The sage situation in our front area is extreme, so this one makes a lot of sense. Minus the pig, plus the cookies, of course.

  3. Oh ME please! I find nothing better (not even chocolate – although a close second) than the various combinations of pasta, cheese, butter and herbs! and “bechamel” – be still my heart. I have to treat that like bacon – only to partake on special occasion because there is no telling what could happen if I made/bought that on a regular basis!!
    Oh and I grow sage as perennial outside in a pot!!

  4. Brown butter and sage and butternut squash and nutmeg… maybe it’s the ingredients or maybe it’s the ac-busting heat, but I’m pining for crisp fall days right now!

  5. I was lucky and was visiting when Sara made the brown butter sauce for the agnoletti – it tasted as good as it looks (and unlike her, I almost go out of my way to avoid non zucchini squash).

  6. We love Buitoni pastas, they make my weekly menu planning such a breeze! Love your recipe, thank-you for sharing!

  7. I love the look of these summery pastas! Some day I would love to just invite over a bunch of friends and make half a dozen different pasta dishes for dinner, all improvised!

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