DAVID HAYDON’S CULINARY journey began when he was 15 and a chance dishwashing gig landed him in the world of fine French dining. “My best friend’s dad owned La Petite Auberge — an old-school French restaurant in San Rafael — and I filled in for him [as kitchen help] one night,” he says. Three years later Haydon dedicated himself to mastering Italian cuisine and as a junior partner co-opened Cafe Ristorante Italia in 1987. But the idea of top chef beckoned to the driven Haydon and he set his ambitions on opening a restaurant of his own. Il Davide, launched in June 1995, has been in business almost 25 years. “We’ve stayed so popular because we’ve been changing all the time and have listened to the clients; you have to listen to the clients,” Haydon says. “I believe in an evolved menu and we have an ambitious one with about 45 dishes.” Meanwhile, consistent quality and meeting of expectations is also key: “When people ask me for a recipe I know I’ve made it right.” With that in mind, Haydon has authored the cookbook To the Taste, available for purchase in the restaurant: “I got sick of people asking me for recipes,” he says with a laugh. Here he outlines how to make butternut squash ravioli, aka ravioli di zucca. “This is a lovely fall and winter dish inspired by the holiday season; the toasted walnuts are wonderful and pureed in the filling.”
Butternut Squash Ravioli
Spinach Pasta Dough
5 ounces fresh spinach, blanched and squeezed dry
1 pound all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
6 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium butternut squash, halved lengthwise, seeds removed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup toasted walnuts
¼ cup mascarpone cheese
¼ cup ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg Egg wash (1 egg whisked with 1 teaspoon water)
2 cups heavy cream
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup toasted and chopped walnuts
3 sage leaves
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
Finely grated Parmesan for garnish
Make the dough
1 In the bowl of a food processor, combine the blanched spinach, flour and salt. Process to mix well. With the machine running, add the egg yolks, egg and olive oil through the feed tube, and process until mixture resembles wet cornmeal, about 2 minutes.
2 Take a handful of dough at a time and form into a firm ball. Repeat with the remaining dough. Roll out each dough ball to the thinnest setting on a pasta machine, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Make the ravioli
1 Heat the oven to 375°F. Brush the butternut squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place cut-side-down on a baking sheet, transfer to the oven and bake until soft, about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool.
2 While the squash is baking, puree the walnuts in a food processor to form a paste.
3 Scoop the squash meat into the food processor with the walnut puree. Add the mascarpone, ricotta, Parmesan, butter and nutmeg. Puree to blend and season with salt and pepper.
4 Transfer the filling to a pastry bag. Cut the rolled-out pasta into 4-inch squares, placing them in a row on a long work surface. Brush each square with the egg wash. Pipe or spoon a large tablespoon of filling into the center of half of the pasta squares. Place the remaining sheets on top of the squares, pressing the air out around the mound of filling. Crimp the edges with the tines of a fork and place on a lightly floured surface such as a cookie sheet.
5 Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Make the sauce
While the water is heating, heat the cream in a large sauté pan over high heat. When it begins to bubble up and rise, add the butter, walnuts, sage, nutmeg and salt, stirring or swirling the pan to mix the ingredients. Keep warm.
Cook and serve
1 Place 12 raviolis in the boiling water and cook until they float, 3 to 4 minutes. Strain the pasta with a skimming spoon or “spider” and add to the sauce.
2 To serve, place 3 raviolis on 4 plates. Spoon the sauce with walnuts over the ravioli and garnish with grated Parmesan. Serve immediately.
This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine’s print edition under the headline: “Pasta Perfect.”