Delicata: Autumn's Fleeting Harvest

Nothing says fall quite like the ubiquitous squash.

From pumpkin spice-flavored everything, to farm stands and grocery store displays overflowing with more exotic varieties, it's almost impossible to go anywhere without seeing squash, to the point that over-saturation may make you overlook it. Squash is not just a side for a turkey dinner, boiled and mashed with butter and brown sugar (although it is delicious like that!) It can be made into rich soups, both sweet and savory, sauce or even filling for pasta.

I'm fond of a number of varieties of squash, in particular sunshine squash (an orange-skinned, "kabocha" variety, similar in size and shape to a buttercup squash) sweet dumpling squash (which resembles a smaller acorn squash, with pale yellow and dark green mottled skin) and of course, delicata squash (similar in color to the sweet dumpling, but small and almost cylindrical in shape.) When the fall harvest comes in, I just can't get enough delicata. Its sweet, tender flesh is particularly delicious roasted; in fact, I hardly bother cooking it any other way. Since they're thinner-skinned than other winter squashes, they don't last as well without ideal storage conditions, so I have to get my fill while I can—by the time Thanksgiving comes, they've disappeared from the produce department, making way for their hardier cousins.

Most of the time, it barely makes it to the table, but on the rare occasion that I don't simply attack my delicata squash with a spoon fresh out of the oven, I like to use it to make filled pasta. Blended with creamy ricotta and sweet Italian sausage, it's the perfect filling for an easy, homemade ravioli that can be eaten right away, or frozen for later. It's simple, yet elegant, plated with brown butter on top and crispy fried sage leaves as a tasty garnish, and is just as well suited as finger food for a hungry toddler as it is a dinner party entree. One thing is certain: like the squash they're filled with doesn't stick around at the market, these ravioli won't last long once you put them on the table.

 


Food for ThoughtHarvest Moon "Mezzaluna" Ravioli

Ingredients:

  • 2 delicata squash (halved and seeded)
  • 16 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 1 lb. package sweet Italian sausage (cooked, drained and minced)
  • 1 package round dumpling wrappers
  • 1 stick salted butter
  • Sage leaves
  • Salt, pepper
  • Canola oil
  • Cinnamon sugar
  • Garlic powder

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Place delicata squash halves on a baking sheet. Drizzle with canola oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder and cinnamon sugar. Place in oven for 30-45 minutes, or until fork-tender. Allow to cool.
  2. Scoop cooked delicata squash out of skins into a large bowl. Add cooked, minced sausage and ricotta, and mix well. Drop by spoonfuls onto dumpling wrappers. Fold over into crescent shapes, sealing the edge with water. Make sure not to trap any air inside the ravioli.
  3. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet to freeze for later, or drop immediately into boiling, salty water and cook until they float to the top.
  4. In a frying pan, melt butter over medium heat until the solids begin to brown, then add the sage and cook until crispy. Serve over ravioli.