Some food you put in your mouth, chew and swallow. It tastes good and it rids you of hunger. Other food you put in your mouth, chew and are transported to the first time you experienced that flavour or the place where you most often eat that particular food.
For me, fairy bread tastes like parties, Nutra-Grain tastes like my grand-parents' house in the country, tuna melts taste like Sunday night and pumpkin ravioli tastes like Milan.
When I was 19 I set off to Europe for what was meant to be a nine month adventure roaming the continent. Instead, within the first couple of months I had found myself a tall, dark and handsome Italian man and took up his offer to go live with him in Milan. While I didn't get the traditional European backpacker experience I had my heart set on, I did get an exciting but lonely, homely but unique experience of Italy - a country which, long after the relationship in Milan ended, stays in my heart.
One of my favourite authentic experiences was Sunday lunch at a friend's parents place. Each week family, friends and ring-in girlfriends who spoke no Italian would gather in Giorgio's parents' apartment in the middle of Milan and eat all afternoon, and often well into the evening.
The first time I went, Giorgio's mum was in the kitchen making pumpkin tortellini when we arrived. We were quickly ushered into the kitchen to assist with the pasta folding - although I tried my hardest, when it came time to serve the pasta, everyone could tell which tortellino was made by the clueless Australian girl.
The pasta course at Sunday's lunches changed most weeks, and I think I only had the pumpkin tortellini there one more time, but it stays with me as the best pasta I've ever eaten.
So, this week, armed with half a pumpkin, a lot of memories, and a desire to be part of the blogging Pasta Presto phenomenon hosted by The Crispy Cook, I attempted my own pumpkin ravioli (I chose ravioli rather than tortellini because no matter how many times that Italian mama showed me how to fold the tortellini properly, mine always seem to come out messy, lopsided or inside out.)
The verdict: it was delicious... and tasted like Milan.
The key to this recipe is the simplicity - so many filled pastas have fillers like breadcrumbs or even just too much ricotta - you really want the sweet roasted pumpkin to be the star here.
Quarter pumpkin (I used Jap because that's what I had but any sweet pumpkin will do)
100 grams ricotta
2 ammaretti biscuits crushed (optional)
200 grams flour (preferably Tipo "00" flour or fine semolina flour but plain will work)
2 large free range eggs
1 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 180c. Chop the pumpkin into wedges, sprinkle them with a little olive oil and pop them into the oven to roast (about 40 mins)
Mix the salt and flour together in a bowl or on the benchtop. Make a well in the center and crack both eggs into it. Beat the eggs with a fork, slowly incorporating the flour. When it becomes too stiff to keep mixing with the fork keep mixing with your hand and knead the dough for a minute or two. If you find the dough is too dry, add a teaspoon of olive oil or water.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and leave to rest for half an hour.
When the pumpkin is cooked through, remove it from the oven let it cool enough so you can handle it. Scoop the flesh out of the skin and into a large bowl. Pop the ricotta and biscuits in and give it all a good mash. You could food processor it, but a) I don't have one b) it's quite nice with slightly bigger bits of pumpkin.
Unwrap the dough, divide it into 2 balls and start working it through a pasta machine. While you can do this step by hand, it'd be very difficult to get the pasta thin enough and a complete pain - considering I bought a pasta machine from the Salvos for $10, they're not exactly an expensive addition to the kitchen. I like to work the dough through the first and second fattest settings on the machine about 5 or 6 times until it's smooth and elastic. Then keeping going up settings until the pasta is so thin you could read this recipe through it.
At this stage, pop a large pot of water on to boil.
Repeat with the other ball of dough.
At this stage you should have two long, thin, rectangular pieces of pasta. Put teaspoons of pumpkin mixture in a straight line down the middle of the sheet of pasta at about 3cm intervals.
Fold one half of the pasta over the filling and press down on either side of the filling to stick the pasta together and get out any air holes. Then fold the other side of the pasta over and repeat and pressing. This double fold method means that there's no annoying forking of each raviolo and they're much less likely to spill their insides during cooking. If you have a ravioli cutter then you can use that, or just a sharp knife to separate the ravioli.
Pop them all in the boiling water and cook for 3 mins.
Serve immediately with sauce of choice - I served mine with brown butter and parmesan cheese, which is the way Giorgio's mum served it, but it would be equally delicious with a simple tomato sauce.