Sage advice.

From M, 13 May 2011, tomato-less sauce for pasta?

Q: I am going to make some roast pumpkin and riccota cheese raviloi, but I need a sauce to go with them. I would preferr to have a non-tomato based sauce, as I do not want to overpower the flavour of the ravioli. Can you suggest something?

On a related topic, I have recently harvested the last of my basil and made some pesto, now in the freezer. I have a bit of left over french sorrel, and was wondering of I could adapt the pesto recipe to use the sorrel?

A: Hi and thanks for your question. The classic sauce for pumpkin ravioli is brown butter with sage. It’s probably the easiest sauce you’ll ever make and one of the most addictive.

Opinions vary on the need to skim the butter off the browned milk solids. Some chefs do, arguing that the resulting brown butter is more refined. That may be true, but most of the distinctive taste of the browned butter is in the solids, which will appear as golden- to dark-brown flecks in the melted butter. I almost never skim my brown butter. You do need to be careful that the solids don’t burn, or your butter will be bitter.

Regarding the sorrel question – although the classic pesto alla genovese is made with basil and no other herbs, you certainly can make a pesto with other herbs, since pesto really just means “pounded.” THAT SAID, I would not recommend using raw sorrel in pesto. As I mentioned in an earlier post about sorrel, in its raw form, sorrel is so sour from oxalic acid that it is not palatable. If you want to try it anyway, remember that, as a sour, astringent herb, you will want to mellow out the sorrel with something complementary, like almonds (which pair well with lemon and thus may pair well with sorrel), other green herbs like parsley, and avoid using cheese.

Brown butter sauce

This will make more than one person will use – probably 2-3 times more – so you can refrigerate the excess or simply reduce the recipe.

Two notes about ravioli: First, if you plan to use ricotta as part of the filling with the pumpkin, you must drain it first or it your filling will be too wet. Stir in 1/2 tsp salt per 8 oz ricotta, and drain in a paper towel-lined strainer, in the refrigerator, overnight if you can. You also should consider binding the ricotta and squash with a beaten egg, which will firm up the filling a little, and minced parsley, which will balance out the sweetness of the squash.

Second, if you are skilled, you can fry the ravioli in butter first after cooking and draining, which will give them a slightly fried texture. Place a skillet over medium heat and, when hot, add a generous knob of butter. When melted and bubbling, add the drained cooked ravioli and fry; when beginning to turn golden on one side, flip and cook on the other side. You cannot fear using butter/oil, because if you skimp, your ravioli will stick to the pan and break.

4 oz butter (one stick)
about a dozen small sage leaves (fewer if large)
half a lemon

Place a small sauté pan over medium high heat and add butter. Heat until foamy and beginning to turn light gold; add sage and fry until crisp. Remove leaves with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Add a squeeze of lemon and pinch of salt to the butter.

Pour sauce over ravioli and garnish with fried sage.

One thought on “Sage advice.

  1. Pingback: Sage advice. « The Upstart Kitchen

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