There is always so much buildup to the holidays, Thanksgiving included. The anticipation of great food shared with family and friends is something I look forward to all year. It is my favorite holiday, and as it all unfolded yesterday, I felt fulfilled (and filled). Then comes the Friday after the carnage. If you avoid stampedes at malls, like I do, then the day after is quiet and slow and quite frankly, always a little bit of a letdown.
Of course, it’s no secret that one of the best parts of Thanksgiving is the leftovers. Sneaking some stuffing straight from the fridge circa midnight is one of life’s greatest pleasures. But still, there’s no festival involved with late-night raids.
In my family, everyone usually sticks around through the weekend, and, after cranberry sandwiches for lunch, we all still need to eat. And sure, we could heat up the duck, the stuffing and the gravy and make a go of it, but where’s the glamor in that? I’d much rather prolong the magic of Thanksgiving by taking those leftovers and fluffing them up a little to make a whole new kind of leftover goodness.
There are a couple easy tricks to recycling your pre-served foods. One of them is pizza. Make a dough, top it with leftovers, bake. Another is pasta. Boil; toss; serve. But if you’re looking to impress, you can take that pasta idea to another level by making ravioli. All you need, leftover-wise, is a filling: Enter mashed sweet potatoes.
Let’s take a moment to talk about the pasta itself. If you’re nuts, like I am, then you can make your own pasta sheets by using the recipe below. It produces a tender yet substantial pasta that is worthy of the finest Italian tables. If you’re not nuts and want to get a fancy dinner on the table without spending an extra hour in the kitchen, then buy frozen wonton skins, thaw them, then place two teaspoons of mashed sweet potatoes in the center of each wonton, wet the edge, and seal. This is an incredible shortcut and no one will ever know.
Now it’s time to think about a sauce. Of course, you could always brown some butter, add a little lemon juice and sage, and call it a day. But I had some turnip greens lying around and whipped them up into a pesto. Presto. No turnip greens? You can use kale or collards or spinach or even swiss chard.
Makes enough for about 24 ravioli
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup water
2 large egg yolks
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Blend flour, water, yolks, oil, and 1/2 teaspoons salt in a food processor until a dough forms. Roll the dough into a ball, then roll in flour. Let dough stand, covered, for 1 hour. Using a pasta roller, roll dough into long sheets. If you don’t have a pasta roller, use the frozen wonton trick mentioned above.
Sweet Potato Ravioli with Turnip Green Pesto
Serves 4 to 6
1 1/2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
Pasta dough or wonton skins
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
4 cups turnip greens (from one bunch)
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Fill pasta dough or wonton skins with about 1 tablespoon mashed sweet potatoes per piece of ravioli. Seal ravioli by wetting the edges of the pasta and pressing to seal.
Pulse garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. Add walnuts and pulse until finely chopped. Add greens, cheese, lemon juice, 3/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and process until smooth. With the motor running, pour oil into spout of food processor and blend until pesto is smooth.
Boil pasta until salted boiling water until al dente, 2 to 3 minutes. Reserve 1 cup pasta cooking water, then drain ravioli. Combine reserved cooking water to pesto, then toss with pasta. Serve with additional cheese.
Ian Knauer has traveled the world for Gourmet magazine, written for too many other magazines to list, cohosted three food television shows and written a cookbook, The Farm. @iknauer | TakePart.com