“The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious.
- Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume
One of my very favorite books of all time though at the time I first read it I was not the beet lover I am today. Beets are incredibly fun to grow and even more fun to juice, pickle, shave onto salads and naturally dye and flavor pasta dough with.
This pasta dough is certainly the most brightly colored I have ever achieved with beets. I used to shred beets and squeeze them through cheesecloth to get the beet juice for this recipe but I have recently become the owner of a Breville Juicer. I have the smallest little amount of beets left in storage from the late fall and with the end of winter in sight, I decided it was time for them to become ravioli.
You will need about 1/4 cup of beet juice for this recipe. Get it however you can. You can squeeze it out of cooked beets, shredded raw beets, you can juice it or drain it out of a can of beets (last resort). You can use slightly less, it will just make the color less intense.
I didn’t want to drown these bright beauties in a red sauce so I quickly tossed them in a brown butter and threw a little tarragon and freshly grated Parmesan over top to serve. Nothing to it. A light pesto would have been nice as well. In keeping with the season, a kale pesto would have added great color and flavor to this dish.
Beet Pasta Ravioli
2.5 – 3 cups flour (plus more for kneading)
2 fresh eggs
1/4 cup beet juice
1 tsp. salt
4 – 6 tablespoons of butter
fresh herb for garnish, tarragon, parsley or sage are all good choices
For the filling:
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup bucheron ( or American goat cheese )
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, minced
pepper and salt to taste
To start place the flour in a mixing bowl. Add the egg and the beet juice and about a teaspoon of salt. Begin to mix the ingredients together with a spatula. If it seems sort of dry, add a tiny bit of water. When making fresh pasta, ALWAYS er on the side of slightly more moist instead of too DRY.
When you’ve mixed the ingredients together just enough to crack the yolks of the eggs and incorporate them, turn the dough out to a floured surface. Knead the dough for 10 minutes, adding more flour if needed. The dough should turn into a nice, smooth ball.
Wrap your dough ball in plastic and let it rest for at least 30 minutes but up to an hour on your counter top.
While your dough is “resting”, mix together all of the ingredients for the filling. I like the French goat cheese, Bucheron, because I find it has a fuller, stronger flavor than the tubes of goat cheese you find in the grocery store. Really, just add another layer of cheesy flavor here so go with one that you like. It can even be mozzarella or asiago. I’ll leave that one up to you.
When your dough is ready, you can begin to roll it through a pasta machine. You want nice thin strips of dough. The thinnest setting my machine has is 6 and I use 5 for ravioli. You can also roll out thin sheets of pasta dough by hand but try your very hardest to get the top and bottom sheets to the same degree of thinness.
Now, there are fancy tools that shape ravioli into rounds or cut them into uniform squares, but I don’t own those tools. I like my ravioli sorta free form I guess. All you need to do is lay out a sheet of pasta and place about 2 tsps of filling all along it, about 1 inch apart. Cover the filling with your second sheet of pasta. Cut in between the filling and take a fork dipped in flour to all of the edges to crimp them shut.
If that all sounds easy to you, it’s because it is. While you are forming the ravioli you can get a big old pot of salted water boiling. Try to work quickly and place the ravioli that is ready on a floured sheet tray or on floured parchment paper so it doesn’t begin to stick.
When all the ravioli is formed and your water is boiling, start dropping them in, one by one and cooking them in small batches until they begin to float. Fresh pasta cooks up so quick it should only take about 2 minutes to cook each batch. Remove the ravioli from the boiling water carefully with a slotted spoon and set aside in a bowl with a touch of olive oil so they don’t stick together.
Just before you are ready to eat, melt the butter in a large saute pan and heat until it’s ALMOST about to brown a little. Add the ravioli to the pan and coat with butter til slightly browned. Toss in some torn tarragon leaves or minced sage or parsley. Top with freshly grated Parmesan and enjoy.
Fresh pasta is one of life’s small pleasures and one of my winter favorites. It reminds me that it’s time to slow down and spend some time preparing and enjoying a meal something that becomes more rare as the farming season progresses.