While it’s not true that Eskimos have 500 words for snow, it is true that just about every culture has some sort of stuffed pasta (wonton, kreplach, and so on). Ravioli are versatile: Serve them as a first course or main course; fill them with plain cheese, fancy lobster, or hearty sausage. Chef Des Jardins’s dish is fairly simple, though making each ravioli can be somewhat time consuming. Using prepared wonton wrappers helps, but you still might want to turn the meal into a group activity and fire up the assembly line.
1Heat the oven to 375°F. Sprinkle thyme and vegetable oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Season squash generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and place cut side down on the baking sheet. Bake until squash is completely soft, about 45 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool.
2When squash is cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh from its skin and place in a large mixing bowl. Discard skin. Add vanilla seeds and nutmeg and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mash mixture until it is evenly combined yet slightly chunky. Put mixture in a fine-mesh strainer or colander set in a bowl, and let the excess liquid drain off for about 30 minutes.
3To form the ravioli, place about 2 teaspoons of the squash mixture on a wonton wrapper. Brush the edges with a pastry brush dipped slightly into the beaten egg, and close with a second wonton wrapper. Remove all air pockets and seal the edges well. (To prevent the ravioli from sticking together, dust them with flour and don’t stack them.) Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat.
4If using chestnuts, melt the butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the chestnuts and cook until they are crisp and golden. Drain. When the water is at a rolling boil, add the ravioli and cook until the pasta is tender and the filling is warm, about 3 minutes.
5To serve, place a few tablespoons of grated cheese onto each dish and top with three ravioli. Spoon brown butter sauce over the ravioli and garnish with chestnuts (if using).