All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012
OK – I am not gonna lie. This beet pasta almost broke my spirit. I tried a while back to make a beet-based gnocchi and all I got was about 4 pounds of magenta spackling paste that got on EVERYTHING & stuck to everything like a horny terrier & dyed everything it touched pink. I added so much flour to un-stickify it that I knew the gnocchi would come out as light & fluffy as pool balls. It was very disheartening & I threw the dough away without even getting to the gnocchi stage. Actually – that is not true. I did make a small batch & served it to two friends. It didn’t taste bad but they were very heavy & even worse – looked like chunks of raw meat on the plate or some kind of dog treat – like THESE – that I had dressed up with a nice sauce. It was pretty nasty.
Still – I’ve had such success with the spinach & my magical kale pasta – I thought I could pull this off with the same ease.
I could not.
I looked over a few beet pasta recipes online & made some mental notes & then decided to basically wing it – based on my vast pasta making experience. In general – folks seemed to recommend a 1-2 cups pureed beets to 3-4 cups flour ratio with three eggs thrown in for good measure. I started with a solid two cups of puree, only added two eggs & used a bit more than four cups of flour to get this result:
I was very excited! It seemed to come together so easily. And it was such a vibrant magenta, too!! But it was during the rolling out process that everything went to Hell. It was VERY, VERY wet inside that innocent looking ball & it looked like raw meat getting pressed through the pasta-maker gears. Gross. And – I am guesstimating – but I think I must have added at least 3 more cups of flour to the dough in the various stages of getting it from that ball there to this:
Doesn’t it look like giant slabs of bacon? And it made a FUCKLOAD! That had to be 8-10 servings of pasta, conservatively. At any rate – I only used about 1/4 of this recipe to make ravioli. I made the other 3/4 into fettuccine.
It took FOREVER to manipulate the flour & moisture levels to the point that the pasta could be pressed this thin. I kept thinking as I made it – nobody who hasn’t succeeded in making regular or spinach pasta a few times (at least) should ever attempt this. And I couldn’t help but fear that all that flour – that seemed to be twice the level others used – was going to result in a starchy, thick pasta that destroyed any hint of beet – both in color and taste.
The GOOD news is – it made the most beautiful ravioli ever. I can’t say there was a beet flavor to the pasta but there isn’t really a spinach taste in the spinach pasta. It really all seems to be about color. The ravioli held their color pretty well. The fettucine did not – in that it faded to this color when boiled:
That might even be a tad more vibrant than it really was.
I started with these beets:
I roasted three in the oven at 400 degrees to set aside to add to the pasta later. I boiled the rest for an hour & pureed them for the noodles. I think the roasted ones – when chopped & added to the pink pasta – will bleed out into that pasta & restore the heavy magenta color it originally had. We will see. But this blog is about the ravioli.
Know this – I made two kinds. One with the beet pasta that was nearly the death of me & one with leftover wonton skins I had in the fridge. If you want the EASIEST ravioli recipe on the planet – just make the sweet potato puree & saged brown butter – and you will be blown away by how easy & delicious – AND LIGHT – these are. If you are more adventurous – the beet pasta makes phenomenally beautiful ravioli. I did not effectively capture their beauty here. I was still feeling a bit beaten up by the pasta-making process & wanted to get on with EATING this shit. And I can report – they really were pretty awesomely delicious. But – no reason to slave over beet pasta. Just make regular pasta – or use the dang wontons. You are not trying to run a food blog. Give yourself a break, for Chrissakes! 🙂
Fresh Beet Pasta & Sweet Potato Ravioli with Sage, Brown Butter & Blue Cheese
2 cups beet puree (4 medium beets?) PLUS 3 more for roasting (optional)
flour – and lots of it – potentially 8 cups
1 tsp sea salt
Sweet Potato Puree
1.5 – 2 lbs sweet potatoes (or yams)
2 small onions – diced
1/4 to 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
wonton wrappers (6 per serving) – if NOT doing the beet pasta
Lots of butter (12 or more TBS)
3 TBS chopped fresh sage
1-2 whisked egg whites (optional) – to seal the ravioli. Water works, too.
Pepper to taste
Blue Cheese (or feta or even shaved Parmesan if blue overwhelms you) as garnish
Roast your yams (having pierced them with a fork several times) in a 400 degree oven. If using – you can also roast three beets at the same time by covering them with a small amount of olive oil & wrapping them in foil. Sweet potatoes AND beets should be fork tender in a bout an hour. You can open the foil around the beets for the last twenty minutes to get a more roasted appearance – if it suits you. Be sure the sweet potatoes are soft in the center. Remove from oven & COOL. When cool – peel the yams & slip the skin & tops off of the roasted beets. Set aside.
The puree beets – cut the greens off ABOVE the meat of the beet. Leave the beet in tact & boil like that to retain as much color as possible. Boil for about an hour or until fork tender. Drain & cool.
Heat some olive oil in a pan & saute the onions until they begin to brown. 5 minutes or so. Set aside.
Mash the sweet potatoes with the cinnamon, nutmeg, grated Parmesan & salt to taste. Do this in a food processor if you have one & get these guys REALLY smooth. Once creamy – add sauteed onions & set aside.
Peel the boiled beets in the sink – again basically by squeezing them. The outer skin slips right off. Press the base of the greens off, too. Put these beets in a food processor & puree. The rest of the instructions are the same as for regular noodles – with the exception that you put the beet puree in the flour well with the eggs. I’d start with a well made of 6 cups of flour.
Copy & paste this link
to view the guide to making plain pasta noodles – or got to http://www.delightfuldeliciousdelovely.com & search for “homemade noodles.” Again – please note: plain or spinach noodles are WAY easier than this beet version so, if you are trying the beet version, BE PATIENT. This dough WILL come together but the wet to dry ingredient ratio is trickier.
Once you have noodles pressed flat (or once you have your wonton package open) – use a cooking cutter or large glass to cut the pasta into circles (bigger – like 2 inches across or more – are easier to work with). No need to cut wontons into circles but you certainly can. Get a small bowl of water (or some whisked egg white) & a pastry brush (I just used my fingers). Place a circle of dough (or a store-bought easy-peasy wonton) on the work space. Put about a tablespoon of sweet potato mix in there. Wet the rim with a brush or your fingers with either water or egg white then top with a second round (or wet & fold your wonton) & seal. You will get better at guessing how much filling these ravioli can take as you get the hang of it. You can seal with your hands or the tines of a fork. I found the pasta & wontons too thin to really seal with a fork.
Melt the butter in a pan over high flame. Once hot – add chopped sage. Saute about 1-2 minutes or JUST until the butter begins to brown. Add a little S&P. Remove from heat.
Boil water. Once boiling (but not rapidly. We don’t want to beat up the fragile ravioli) – drop the ravioli in. They will cook quickly – likely less than two minutes. They begin to float up when they are ready. Remove with a slotted spoon & put some on each plate. Spoon some brown sage butter over the ravioli. Top with some chopped roasted beets (if you are using) and a small quantity of blue cheese (go LIGHT) or feta or Parmesan. Crack some pepper atop that & serve!