Recipes from the Garden: Beet Ravioli

A far cry from a gourmet chef, any attempts at fancy cooking were quickly forgotten once I became a mother.  Spending hours in the kitchen piecing together detailed recipes was no longer an option as I suddenly found myself struggling to even put dinner on the table.  During those first few weeks of new motherhood, I felt certain that we would be forever doomed to a life of convenience food and take-out.  Fortunately, I was wrong, and here I am today, back in the kitchen, complete with a curious toddler on my hip, and this time I am here to stay.

There’s nothing more rewarding than combining one’s love for gardening with a love for cooking, especially when the cooking involves discovering creative and unique ways to prepare something as unexciting as a beet (did I say unexciting?  I love them, I truly do, but after months of pulling beet after beet out of storage, the excitement tends to slowly fade…)

I confess, this recipe took me two days from start to finish, but it was worth every minute.  We all thought so…even the little guy, a recently self-proclaimed hater of beets, who lost himself in the moment, entirely unaware that he was even eating a beet.

Readers, be warned:  this recipe is no 30-minute meal.  But the results are so spectacular, so divine, and above all, so incredibly rewarding, especially when they involve beets grown in your very own backyard.   Quite simply, I have never experienced beets like this, and I can almost guarantee that a few bites of this will convert any beet hater into a lover of all things beet.

Tip for busy mothers (or fathers!):  Homemade pasta is surprisingly easy to make!  Split this process into two days.  On day 1, roast the beets & make the pasta dough.  On day 2, everything else will be a breeze (sort of).  Homemade ravioli would be great fun with older children who love to help out in the kitchen… I love imagining the floury mess that would ensue.

Beet Ravioli with Orange Sauce
Adapted slightly to better fit my kitchen’s current state of chaos, from La Tartine Gourmande

Pasta dough:
1.5 cups flour
4 large egg yolks
1 tsp olive oil
Water (about 4- 5 tbsp, but varies depending on the size of your eggs)
Pinch of salt
1 egg, lightly beaten for egg wash

Ravioli Filling:
180 g cooked beet, peeled (about 1 large beet or 2 smallish beets)
1 shallot
25 g ground almonds  (about 1/2 cup)
25 g freshly grated parmesan (about 1/2 cup)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sherry vinegar (original recipe calls for cherry vinegar, but I used sherry vinegar, which I had on hand, and it tasted great!)
1/4 cup mint leaves (or 4 tsp dried mint)
Salt and pepper

Orange Sauce
Juice from 1 orange
Zest from 1 orange
7 tbsp of butter

Day 1:  Make the pasta dough.  I made the dough in my food processor, but you can also do it by hand.  Blend the flour with salt, egg yolks, and olive oil in the food processor.  Add 2 tbsp of water, then add very small amounts of water at a time as needed, until the dough has the right texture.  You will know when the dough is ready when it forms a sort of a ball and detaches from the sides of the bowl (this really happens- just give it time!).  The dough should feel firm but not too sticky.

Let dough stand for at least 1 hour before using.  If making a day in advance, wrap tightly in a double layer of plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

Roast the beets.   Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the beets and wrap them tightly with foil, and roast for about an hour (depending on the size of the beets) at 375 F.    I always roast more than I need for the ravioli because who doesn’t love to snack on delicious roasted beets throughout the day?  I love to dice them and marinate them in a red wine vinager, olive oil, salt & garlic & eat them on their own or mixed into a salad.

Day 2:  Make the filling:  In a food processor or blender, mix all of the filling ingredients together until you have a smooth paste.    Set aside.

Make the Pasta: I rolled the dough and assembled the ravioli by hand, but I would imagine that a pasta machine would make things slightly easier.  If rolling by hand, be sure to roll the dough very thin.  Really push that dough to its ultimate thinness- you won’t regret the effort, since you’ll get more raviolis out of it, and they will be so much more beautiful.

Assemble the raviolis: Cut small squares (my squares were around 2 x 2”, but varied greatly, some being unidentifiable shapes).   Place a heaping teaspoon of filling in each piece of ravioli.  Brush the edges of the square lightly with the egg wash (water will work too if you prefer), and then place the top layer over the bottom layer and press firmly with your fingertips.  Be careful not to leave any gaps; otherwise you may end up with empty raviolis and beet-water after you cook them.  Cover the raviolis as you go with either parchment or plastic wrap so they do not dry out.   Cover the dough you’re not using as well; this dough dries very quickly.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  They cook quickly, usually in 4-5 minutes.  Cook the raviolis in batches if necessary, drizzling olive oil over the cooked raviolis to prevent them from sticking.

Make the orange sauce.  These raviolis are delicious on their own, drizzled with some olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper, but if you’re in the mood for something rich, decadent, and truly gourmet, make the sauce.  This simple combination of melted butter and fresh orange juice turns this excellent dish into something heavenly.  To make the sauce, heat the orange juice and the zest on medium-low heat and reduce slightly.  Cut the butter into pieces and add to the pot.  Allow to thicken for a minute or two, but do not bring to a boil.

Drizzle the orange sauce over the ravioli and bask in the glory of having created a simple yet gourmet, fulfilling meal from your very own backyard.

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