I couldn’t let October slide by without a squash pasta, and with Halloween just around the corner, caramelle seemed like the obvious choice. I love butternut squash, but I do find its sweetness can easily overpower a dish. The classic tortelli di zucca (which includes Amaretti biscuits) is altogether too sweet for me, so I prefer to make mine this way, with crumbled feta which really counteracts the sweetness. The chilli butter is the same kind that you get drizzled over Turkish eggs, beautifully orange from the Aleppo chilli flakes, and not fiercely hot, just providing a lovely warmth. If you don’t like chilli, a simple sage butter would be a good alternative.
If you want uniform caramelle, use a ruler to measure your pasta squares precisely. I never use a ruler, and just eye-ball it, which is how I end up with this rustic, Quality Street-style assortment of sweet shapes.
Roasted butternut & feta caramelle with Aleppo chilli butter
- 1/2 butternut squash, peeled and de-seeded, and cut into large chunks
- 1 head garlic
- 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 100g ricotta
- 80g feta
- 180g “00” flour
- 50g fine semolina, plus extra for rolling/dusting
- 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large eggs
- 60g unsalted butter
- 2tsp Aleppo chilli flakes
- Salt and black pepper
- Heat the oven to 200’c/180’c fan/gas mark 6.
- Make the pasta dough by combining the flour and semolina together in a wide bowl. Make a well in the middle of it, and add the eggs and oil to the well. Use a fork to whisk the eggs in the well, gradually incorporating more and more of the flour as you whisk. Once it gets too stiff to continue with the fork, switch to your hands and bring it together to form a dough. Alternatively mix all the ingredients together in a food processor and pulse until it forms a dough. Then turn it out onto a clean work surface and knead it really well for a good 5-10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Leave it under an up-turned bowl on the work surface for an hour to rest before rolling.
- Slice the top off the garlic bulb so as to expose the cloves inside, but do not peel it, leave it whole. Drizzle a little olive oil onto the exposed cloves at the top, then wrap it in foil and place it in a roasting tin along with the butternut squash and the thyme. Toss the squash in the remaining veg oil just to coat it lightly, then season with salt and black pepper, and roast for 25-35 minutes until very soft. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
- Once cool enough to handle, squeeze the garlic bulb from the bottom so that the roasted garlic comes out. Discard the skin, and discard the thyme stalks. Use a fork to mash the garlic with the butternut squash flesh until all large lumps are gone, then mash in the ricotta, and finally stir in the crumbled feta. Taste and season very well with black pepper, and salt if necessary, but bear in mind the feta is salty so it might not need extra.
- Roll the pasta to a thickness of about 1mm, then cut it into squares approximately 7cm x 7cm, but feel free to make them a little larger if you prefer.
- Pipe the filling into the centre of the square, then very lightly brush the tops of each square with water – this is just to slightly dampen them. Roll them up, so the lower piece of dough comes up over the filling, then roll it over so the filling is encased in a tube of dough. With the seam on the underside, press down on either side of the ball of filling in the centre, to seal it inside, trying to ensure no air is trapped inside with the filling. Then pinch the sides in where you’ve just pressed down, to create the sweet wrapper appearance. Place them on a tray dusted with semolina whilst you finish shaping them.
- Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large sauté pan, and when it foams, add the chilli flakes, and heat for another 10-15 seconds before turning off the heat.
- Cook the caramelle in the boiling water until just al dente – when you add them to the pan, swirl them gently around to ensure none stick to the bottom, then you’ll find they rise up and float after a couple of minutes. After this happens cook for a minute further, then test a piece, and it should be just about done. Obviously the thickness of your pasta will vary slightly, especially if you’re rolling by hand, so keep a close eye and judge the timing for yourself.
- Use a slotted spoon to lift the cooked pasta out of the water and into the pan containing the chilli butter. Gently stir and turn them over in the butter to coat them all, then serve immediately with plenty of grated veggie parmesan-style cheese over the top.