I’ve always loved beets: their color, a magenta that still seems unnatural every time I see it; their texture, tender and meaty; their flavor, bright, earthy and fruity. As a beet fan, it doesn’t take much to convince me that something with roasted beets in it is going to be delicious.
But because I enjoy them au naturel, I don’t usually do much to dress them up. I’ll generally roast them (or buy them already prepared), slice them and throw them on a salad or just eat them as a side with some salt and pepper. So I somehow never thought to chop them, mix them up with ricotta cheese of all things, and stuff them into pasta. Why complicate something that’s so good when it’s simple? Because it’s ungodly good, that’s why.
That’s what I found out last weekend, when my friend Emma from Follows The Sun visited. She brought along this recipe for Casunsiei (Beet and Ricotta ravioli), which reminded her of a formative summer she spent interning at the restaurant that is famous for them.
We made the ravioli and they were pretty heavenly (with brussels sprouts on the side). I have a ton of respect for a restaurant that churns them out in huge numbers every day because I had enough after making enough for just the three of us. I think the next time I want them, I may need to drag myself down to Brooklyn and have theirs since I am assured they are masterpieces.
Once we finished filling the pasta, I realized we had only used about a third of the beet and ricotta mix. I put the rest into the fridge to deal with another day. There was no way I was going to do all that work over to fill more ravioli, so we all decided that the filling would make just as good a sauce. And man, was that a good idea.
This dish isn’t as fun to eat as the slippery soft pillows of filling you get when you make ravioli, but it’s delicious, absolutely beautiful, and much much much less complicated.
Recipe: Beet and Ricotta sauce
Makes enough for up to a pound and a half of dried pasta.
- 2 large beets (when chopped they should amount to about 1 1/2 cups)
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup whole milk ricotta
- 1 stick of melted butter
- 2 teaspoons poppy seeds, more or less as desired (if you have them)
- salt and pepper
- grated Parmigiano Reggiano to top each serving (optional)
- Roast the beets: cut off greens and root, wash under cold water. If the beets are large, slice in half lengthwise. Cover a baking sheet with tin foil and lightly coat with olive oil. Place the beet halves cut-side down on the sheet. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil. Place in a 375 degree oven. Cook until tender for about 40 minutes, or for about 10 minutes longer than when you start to smell them.
- Mix together the rest of the ingredients in a bowl.
- When the beets are roasted and cooled, peel them. This is easy to do by hand once they have cooled, especially if they have been cut. Then dice them as small as you would like (smaller than quarter inch chunks). If you would like more of a paste, you can pulse them in a food processor as well.
- Add beets to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients. It will look a bit like a mixed berry pie filling.
- Cook your pasta, drain and add back to the emptied pot that they cooked in. Pour in the beet mixture while both the pot and the pasta are still hot and stir until combined. The heat should be enough to cook the egg in the mixture. If you are concerned that the sauce is runny or that the egg might not be cooked, you can turn the heat on under the pot and stir the pasta for a few minutes before serving.
Serve with a green salad and a nice acidic dressing like balsamic vinegar. And if you want to be really fancy, a glass of red wine.
One year ago: Freezable bean burritos with a zing!
About this author: I'm a New Yorker who would rather cook than go out to restaurants. Sometimes I think I may be in the wrong city for that. Then I remember the exotic ingredients I'd be hard-pressed to find if I lived somewhere else. My cooking style is an eclectic range of everyday-American, Italian, middle-eastern, with extensive forays into Japanese cuisine, and some pit-stops into Indian and African cuisines. I love to try my hand at recreating dishes I taste. While I enjoy most anything with a flavor, from high cuisine to instant junk food, I have a soft spot in my belly for home-style cooking no matter the geographic or ethnic origin. Read more from this author...