I guess the first recipe on this blog should be what inspired me to start my kitchen diary. I discovered this marvelous first course when we went out to eat in our village for some friends going away party. The combination of the sweet pumpkin, sheeps cheese and the the fresh mint which hits you a few seconds after the rest of the flavors almost made me moan. I didn't, thankfully, but when I looked up, I caught the eye of someone else who was also equally delighted so I needn't have worried.
I have to mention the fact that the party was, of course, for American friends who were moving because in the 9 years we've lived here, none of our Italian friends have ever moved away. I mention this because, in a way, it does relate to food. Given that most Italians prefer to stay in the region in which they grew up, you find traditional Tuscan dishes in Tuscany, Sicilian dishes in Sicily and so on throughout all the regions of Italy. These traditional dishes have been passed down from generation to generation and are absolutely treasures. You definitely find nouveau creative Italian cooks in some of the nicer restaurants and on the T.V. but the heart and soul is still the traditional dishes. There isn't the melting pot of people and flavors that you find in most places in America.
I prefer to ask the people I run into in the markets, stores and the Trattoria's for their recipes. That's how I learned to make this dish. I asked the cook at our local Trattoria that night at the going away party and she told me and I went home and made it. I will try to write it down but since I learned a voce don't be too concerned with the exact measurements. In fact, this is the first time I have actually written it down so try it and let me know if it works.
First, I confess, that I usually buy the Pumpkin Ravioli. It makes this so much easier and here, of course, you can buy amazing pasta so inexpensively. If you can't buy it, write me and I can also tell you how to make it.
Once you have the ravioli, you only have to make the sauce. You basically start with a beciamella sauce or white sauce and then add pecorino and fresh mint. I made the white sauce more complicated by adding the parsley, onion, and pepper but you can easily leave it out and just make a basic white sauce. So here it is:
Pecorino Sauce with Mint
1 liter milk
a sprig of fresh parsley
a pinch of nutmeg
1/2 an onion, peeled and sliced
6 black peppercorns
80 grams or 2 3/4oz plain flour
65 grams or 2 1/4oz butter
fresh mint leaves about half a handful?
150 g freshly grated pecorino cheese (fresh sheep's cheese). More or less as you like.
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put the milk, parsley, nutmeg, onion and black peppercorns into a pan and bring gently to a simmer. After a bit, not too long, strain the milk and return it to the pot on the stove to keep it warm. Melt the butter in a second pan and add the flour a little at a time whisking well so that no lumps form. As soon as it is all mixed in well start adding the warm milk a ladleful at a time, whisking well until you have a thick smooth white sauce. Add the mint and simmer for a couple of minutes while stirring, then take off the heat, add the pecorino and season well. Cover and set aside. Remove the mint before serving.
Cook the pumpkin ravioli and drain, adding a little of the water to the pecorino sauce if it has gotten too thick. Serve in bowls with the sauce on drizzled on top and a sprig of mint if you have it.