Stuffed pasta on a diet? Absolutely, according to the Hairy Dieters, whose Home-made Butternut Squash Tortellini recipe offers an excellent healthy vegetarian option for under a £1 per portion. However, you will need to devote up to 3 hours in the kitchen and have a reasonable amount of skill to ensure the filling doesn’t escape from the tortellini shells! Lazy Sunday, anyone?
Disclaimer: My wife Ann-Marie made this recipe, so all I did was rock up and tuck in when it was ready! I have to say the buttery squash pasta filling, accompanied by the spinach tasted fantastic, and I wanted more. According to Annie, this wasn’t too tricky to pull together and it would be quicker to make next time now she’s got the knack of folding the pasta and sealing the filling. Off you go then, love ;-).
If, like me, you lack patience and are time-pressured, then why not check out the Super Speedy section of this blog which provides a selection of tasty, diet-friendly recipes which can be rustled up in about 20 minutes.
Recipe: Home-made Butternut Squash Tortellini
Calories: 389 per serving
Book: Hairy Dieters – How to Love Food and Lose Weight
Prep time: Approx 2 ½ hours
Cooking time: Approx 45 mins
Ingredients: 300g strong white flour plus extra for rolling, ½ tsp fine salt, 200ml boiling water
Filling: 500g butternut squash (1/2 small squash), 1 tsp olive oil, 1 small red onion, 3 tbsp quick-cook polenta, 25g Pecorino or Parmesan cheese (finely grated), ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg, flaked sea salt, ground black pepper
Sauce: 3 tbsp half-fat crème fraiche, handful fresh basil leaves (roughly torn), 2 big handfuls of baby spinach leaves
Cost per portion: Approx 0.96p
Method: First make the dough. Sift the flour and mix in the salt, then stir in the boiling water with chopsticks or a knife until a ball forms. If the dough seems too wet, add a bit more flour; if it’s too dry, add more boiling water. Cover the dough and leave it to stand and cool for about an hour. Meanwhile, you can get on with the filling.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees / Fan 180 degrees / Gas 6. Peel the butternut squash and cut it into rough 4cm chunks. Put these in a large bowl and toss with ½ tsp of the oil, a couple of pinches of salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Scatter over a large baking try and roast for 25 minutes until just tender when pierced with a skewer.
While the squash is cooking, halve and finely slice the onion. Put the slices in the bowl used for the squash, add the remaining oil and toss well. Scatter over the top of the squash after the 25 minutes cooking time and roast together for 10 minutes more.
Tip the hot vegetables back into the mixing bowl and leave to cool for 5 minutes. Add the polenta and blitz with a stick blender (or in a food processor if you prefer) to make a thick, orange puree. Set aside to cool for about an hour, then stir in the grated cheese and nutmeg. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes until it’s very elastic. You can do this in a food mixer with a dough hook if you like. Take a third of the dough and roll it out very thinly on a floured surface, stretching and turning it as you go. Cut out 10 circles with a 9cm round pastry cutter, stacking the discs with a dusting of flour between them to stop them sticking. Continue until all the dough is used up – you can’t re-roll this dough.
Take a disc of dough and lay it flat in the palm of your hand. Placed a heaped teaspoon of filling in the middle, dip your finger in water and brush it around the edge. Fold the pastry over and, gently squeezing out the excess air, press the edges firmly to form a semi-circular shape. Bring the two-ends of the crescent round in front of the filling and dampen one end with a little cold water. Press firmly together to seal and create the tortellini shape. Set aside on a floured plate while you make the rest.
Half fill a very large saucepan with cold water and bring to the boil. Drop the tortellini gently in the hot water and bring it back to the boil. Cook for 5 minutes until the pasta is tender, stirring occasionally. Drain the past in a colander, leaving just 3-4 tablespoons of the cooking liquid in the pan to form the base for the sauce.
Tip the pasta back into the saucepan and add the crème fraiche, basil and spinach leaves. Season well with the chilli flakes and some freshly ground black pepper, then toss together over a low heat until the spinach wilts. Divide the tortellini between warmed plates to serve.