I did not grow up with chestnuts (it’s okay, I had many biscochos) and since discovering them I try to find one at least one new recipe with chestnuts each year. Although I think they are a pretty versatile nut (are they nuts? fruits?) it is not easy to find interesting vegetarian recipes that call for them. These ravioli are an adaptation of a recipe from The Gourmet Cookbook that includes pancetta and butter. Instead I substituted some baby bella mushrooms and earth balance spread. The Gourmet recipe also called for won ton wrappers, cut into circles as the encasement. Although I would have liked to use won ton wrappers, they were out of them when I went to the market, so instead I grabbed some no-cook fresh lasagna and was happy that it worked just fine.
I think half the pleasure of making anything with chestnuts is the amazing smell that fills your house while they are roasting. It is much easier to buy them jarred (they begin appearing jarred- peeled and boiled- on supermarket shelves around mid-October, and fresh in the produce section, in their shiny brown shells around the same time) but it is also very expensive and not as much fun! If you are going to buy them fresh make sure you buy then from somewhere that restocks frequently and look for smooth, shiny unblemished shells. Here is a helpful link for chestnut buying.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place a chestnut on a soft dish towel that is lying flat on a cutting board or countertop. This will allow the chestnut to “sink” into the dish towel and keeps it from rolling while you make the cuts in the next step.
Use a sharp knife to cut an X into one side of the chestnut to allow the steam caused by roasting to escape, otherwise, the chestnut will explode (recently I tried just piercing them, without making an X and it was definitely more difficult to remove the skins after then were roasted, but not impossible).
Place each chestnut with the cuts facing up onto the cookie sheet.
Roast 20 to 30 minutes or until chestnuts are tender, easy to peel, golden brown in color, and the shells are beginning to open.
Peel nuts when they are cool enough to handle
Chestnut Ravioli With Sage, (heavily) adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook
1 cup roasted, shelled, and skinned chestnuts (1/2 lb in shell or 7 oz bottled whole)
1 1/2 cups crimini/baby bella mushrooms, chopped
7 tablespoons unsalted butter/earth balance spread
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, smashed
1/4 cup water
1 Granny Smith apple
2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan (I found a really good, strong sheep’s milk pecorino and it worked well, but this recipe is so flavorful you could leave out the cheese all together)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
48 won ton wrappers (12-oz package) or no-boil fresh lasagna noodles
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
Special equipment: a 2 3/4-inch round cookie cutter
Coarsely chop chestnuts.
Cook onion, mushrooms and garlic in about 3 Tbs butter/earth balance over moderate heat until mushrooms have softened and onions have caramelized sightly. Add chestnuts and water and simmer, stirring, until liquid is reduced by half (you may need a little extra water- try mashing the chestnuts to see if they have softened). Discard garlic.
Transfer mixture to a bowl and mash to a coarse paste with a fork. Peel half of apple and cut enough of peeled half into 1/4-inch dice to measure 3 tablespoons. Reserve remaining (unpeeled) apple. Stir diced peeled apple into chestnut mixture with cheese, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.
Put 1 won ton wrapper on a work surface, keeping remaining wrappers in plastic wrap, and mound 1 scant tablespoon of filling in center. Lightly brush edges of wrapper with water and top with a second wrapper, pressing down around filling to force out air. Trim excess dough with cutter and seal edges well, pressing them together with your fingertips. If using fresh pasta, cut out a circle (it can be any size you want, you are going to fold these, so you may want it larger than 2 3/4 inches), out a small amount of filling onto circle and dab half of the outer edge with water then fold and press to seal, as shown below. Transfer ravioli to a dry kitchen towel (I put mine on a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper) then make more in same manner.
Cut enough of unpeeled apple into 1/4-inch dice to measure 3 tablespoons and toss with lemon juice.
Heat remaining 4 tablespoons butter/earth balance in a large heavy skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides and butter begins to turn brown. Stir in sage and cook, stirring, until sage is crisp and butter is golden brown. Season with salt and pepper.
Add ravioli to a 6-quart pot of salted boiling water, then cook at a slow boil, stirring gently occasionally, until tender, 3 to 5 minutes (if you are using the lasagna noodles, boil for less than minute). Carefully transfer ravioli with a slotted spoon to a colander to drain (do not leave them there too long, they will stick together as they cool). Slide ravioli into sage butter and cook over moderate heat, stirring gently, 1 minute.
Sprinkle ravioli with unpeeled apple and season with pepper.