Normally when I make dinner, I don’t think much about reception. I cook what is fresh and seasonal and healthy. I trust my kids will like it, or will like it enough to get through the meal without too much fuss.
But yesterday was a busy day. Errands. Flu shots. Ballet. I simply wasn’t in the mood for negotiations over how much more they needed to eat before getting dessert. So I took a moment to think about what everyone would like, and built a meal out of that.
I knew it had to have pasta, because that’s a crowd-pleaser for sure. Butter and parmesan, too. Chicken for protein, and a veggie or two from our farm share. That’s how I hit on Ravioli with Chicken, Walnuts and Butternut Squash. When we all finally assembled at the table, my youngest polished off her ravioli before the rest of us had even finished saying grace. My son had thirds. My oldest was already staking a claim to the leftovers for her lunch tomorrow. I’ll count that as victory. And I’ll leave the battles over celery root and mushrooms for another day.
Ravioli with Chicken, Walnuts and Butternut Squash
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated The Best 30-Minute Recipe
2-4 chicken breasts, depending on how much chicken you want
Olive oil for spreading on chicken
Salt and pepper
1 butternut squash, peeled and small diced — you need about 4 cups
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1 leek, washed well and sliced into thin rings
18 ounces whole-wheat cheese ravioli
1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted for 5-10 minutes at 350
1/2 cup grated parmesan
Cream or Half & Half (optional)
Turn on the grill. Rub chicken with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and set aside while the grill heats up. In a large non-stick saute pan, melt 1 T butter over medium-high heat. Add butternut squash and cook without stirring for 5 minutes. Stir and cook another 5-7 minutes, or until squash is browned and tender. Remove from pan. Add in leeks and saute about 5 minutes, then add squash back in and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, boil 4 quarts of salted water and cook ravioli according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, put chicken on the grill and cook until done. Cut into bite-sized pieces. When noodles are tender, reserve 1/2 cup cooking water and drain. Add ravioli to the butternut squash, then add chicken, a tablespoon or two of the reserved cooking water, 3 tablespoons butter, parmesan, walnuts and a tablespoon or two of cream. Heat on low until the noodles are coated, and add more parmesan, cream and/or cooking water to taste. Sprinkle with more parmesan at the table.
Variations: Rather than adding the chicken to the ravioli, you can serve it as a side dish to the grilled chicken, or you can leave it out altogether for a vegetarian meal. You can also leave out the cream and just use the cooking water, or you can leave out the cooking water and just use the cream!