Holiday Recipe: Graffiato’s Pumpkin Tortellini With Brown Butter and Lemon Thyme

A recipe that’s fun for the whole family to make.

Photograph by Jeff Martin.

Funny thing about Thanksgiving: All day Thursday you’re completely crazed trying to get the turkey on the table, then Friday rolls around and suddenly there’s nothing much to do.

One of our favorite day-after activities is to find a cooking or baking project we can work on with relatives—something to entertain the kids and keep the adults from descending into the doldrums of cabin fever. This pumpkin tortellini recipe from chef Mike Isabella is just the thing—it celebrates the flavors of fall and is intricate enough to eat up the good part of an afternoon, yet simple enough to work as a great group project. We suggest you pick up the ingredients while shopping for the main event, so you wake up Friday with everything good to go.


Pasta Dough

1¼ cups flour, plus more for dusting
3 large egg yolks
¼ cup water
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
Pumpkin and Cheese Filling
1½ ounces roasted and scooped pumpkin
1⅔ tablespoons grated Parmesan
3½ ounces mascarpone
1½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cracked pepper

Candied Hazelnuts

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup hazelnuts
1 quart canola oil (for frying)

Brown Butter and Lemon Thyme Emulsion

2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons brown sugar
¼ cup cold butter
1 teaspoon fresh lemon thyme (or any fresh thyme), chopped


Make the pasta dough: Fit a food processor with the plastic dough blade and add flour. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks, water, and olive oil.

Turn on the food processor and slowly add the liquid. After a minute, tiny dough balls will form. If the dough is too wet and not coming together, add a little flour. If the dough is too dry and not coming together, add a little water. It should form a ball. Scrape down the sides of the food processor bowl to fully incorporate all the ingredients. Remove the dough ball and dust with flour. Knead for 1 minute, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days. Remove from refrigerator 10 minutes before using.

Roast the pumpkin: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Trim the ends of the pumpkin and quarter from stem to opposite end. Scoop out the seeds and pulp, and place on a pan covered in foil. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes to 1 hour, or until golden brown and tender. Scoop out the flesh from the peel, and place correct amount in a food processor. Add Parmesan, mascarpone, salt, and pepper, and purée until smooth. Set aside to cool.

Candy the hazelnuts: Place nuts, sugar, and water in a pot and boil on the stove until a heavy syrup forms, about five minutes. Strain off liquid and set hazelnuts aside. Pour oil into a large pot over high heat—there should be enough space for about three times as many nuts as are used in the recipe. Carefully place the hazelnuts in the hot oil and fry until golden brown. Remove the hazelnuts from the oil and place in a bowl. Season hazelnuts to taste with salt, then lay on a sheet tray in a single layer to cool. Set aside.

Make the emulsion: Place half of the butter in a pan and melt on the stove until dark brown in color. Add sugar and vinegar, then add remaining cold butter with a whisk and stir until emulsified. Set aside. Just before using, add the chopped lemon thyme.

Final preparation

Using a dough sheeter, feed the dough through the number 1 setting of the machine—it should be very thin—and lay on a surface lightly dusted with flour. Cut the pasta dough into circles using a 2½-inch (circumference) ring cookie cutter. Place 1 tablespoon of filling onto each circle of pasta dough. Fold the disks in half and then bring the two corners together, pinching the dough around the edges so that the pockets stay closed. Place tortellini on a sheet tray dusted with flour.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil with salt, add tortellini, and blanch for about two minutes. Remove pot from heat and drain.

Transfer the tortellini to a large sauté pan and add butter-thyme emulsion. Swirl until lightly coated, then pour into a platter. Top with candied hazelnuts and additional grated Parmesan (if desired) to serve.

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