This past Saturday, we headed up to the farm (that supplies the food for our CSA) for an open house (or open farm, more accurately). It’s a chance to meet some of the workers, get a tour, see how your food is grown, meet with the farmer, have a light lunch made from the fresh produce, ask questions, and get out into the fields to try your hand at harvesting. We have a great time and go whenever we can.
This year, some of the produce we could harvest were beets. One of our favorites. It was tough work, pulling those beets out of the ground (really, the ground was quite dry and hard), but we managed to uproot several pounds of the tastiest root crop around. Of course, we just pulled these up with nothing but a vague notion of how we’d prepare them. On the way home, we decided on a recipe from Pasta, by Gianni Scappin, Alberto Vanoli, and Francesco Tonelli. We did modify it just a bit to make it a touch easier.
Today, we’re doing mainly the filling, and tomorrow we’ll be scratchin’ a basic traditional sauce that’s very popular in northern Italy. For detailed instructions on filling ravioli, you can look at our post on Mushroom Ravioli.
Serves 4 to 6.
We picked chioggia beets, which, while beautiful, are lacking in the color department. This ravioli looks most impressive if the deep red from the beets shows through the pasta sheet. But don’t feel sorry for us, because we like the taste of chioggia beets the best. For sage, we made a mistake. A big mistake. On our way home from the farm, we stopped at a Dul-mart for a prescription, so we thought we’d grab some fresh sage at the same time. It was awful. Wilted and soft, lacking in flavor. If this is the only sage you can get, go with dried. Now, for the standards: eggs are free range, butter should always be unsalted. Do you let random strangers sprinkle salt on your food? Why do it with butter?
Procedure in detail:
Boil beets. Beets are hard to peel — no two ways about it — unless they’re boiled first. So, let’s boil them up. Place the beets in a large saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until a fork will pierce about 1/4-inch into the beet easily. Drain and run cold water over the beets to cool.
Peel and dice. Now that the beets are partly cooked, the skin should just slip right off. So peel all the beets, then chop them into large dice and let drain.
Cook onions and sage. Heat the butter in a large skillet over high heat until the butter is foamy. I know you’re thinking, that’s a half-stick of butter. That’s too much. But, always remember that butter is the cook’s secret weapon. Use it. When the butter is foamy, add the onions and sage, and cook until the onions are tender, about 5 minutes.
Cook beets. Add those diced beets and the water, cover, and cook until the beets can be mashed with a fork, about 15 minutes since we’d boiled them part way. When you check the beets, add more water as needed.
Cool and drain. Now that the beets are mashable, let them cool a bit and drain off any water that remains (if needed).
Pulse. Place the beets in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until they’re finely chopped. Not beet paste, mind you, but tiny pieces.
Make filling. This is the great thing about ravioli fillings. Once you’ve cooked the ingredients, combine everything and stir. So, in a large bowl, combine beets, cheeses, an egg, and stir. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you’re concerned about eating raw egg, add the egg after adding salt and pepper. It’ll be the same.
Roll pasta dough and fill. The basic technique is simple: roll out sheets of dough about 4 inches wide, place 1/2- tablespoon mounds of filling every inch or so, fold over pasta, cut, and crimp to seal. For photos, see Mushroom Ravioli. Let the filled raviolis dry for 30 minutes or so.
Boil ravioli. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and drop in about 10 raviolis at a time. Let boil for about 1 minute (fresh pasta cooks quickly), remove with a slotted spoon, and serve with your favorite sauce.
While we’ll show you how to make a sauce that pairs nicely with these ravioli, we’ll let you know that beet ravioli have a nice, light, beet flavor with a hint of sweetness, so you’ll want to have a light sauce, even if you don’t use tomorrow’s recommendation. The pasta, being home-scratched, is far superior to anything that you’ll find in the store, and the pairing of beets with a bit of sage, not enough sage to overwhelm the beets, but enough that you might think there’s some butternut squash mixed in, is almost perfect. Our only disappointment was that chioggia beets lack that bold assertive red color which would have made the ravioli stand out. Between that, and the effort needed to fill, fold, and crimp raviolis, we’ll say four stars.