Sunday, May 25, 2014

Beet and Goat Cheese Ravioli with Parsley and Mint Pesto

(This is one of the dishes we served at the wonderful 2014 Project Green Fork Spring Supper on 6/1/14 at Southward Fare & Libations!)

This is a dish we make for company or the family on special occasions. The bright and earthy pasta contrasts with the vibrant, green pesto -- both on the plate and on the palate. It's a dish that screams 'spring!' by making use of the fresh herbs, eggs, and beets that start to appear at the market in April. 

We don't write much about filled pastas like ravioli because they're pretty time consuming to make, and also because we're self-aware enough to know we may have a reputation for not having the simplest recipes in the world. (A common observation from some readers we meet: "So, y'all don't have kids, do you?") We'd hate to further bolster that notion about our sometimes-complicated-but-hopefully-worth-it food by asking you to put down what you're doing and make not only the filling of this ravioli from scratch, but also the pasta and the pesto sauce that accompanies it…but, hey, here we go. Just humor us and come along and see what you think. 

To be honest, we find this process relaxing, and possibly you will, too, just probably not the very first time you try to make ravioli. It takes about four good tries before things really start to come together, but you do learn more with each go at it. It's best to think about ravioli making as several little steps raher than one giant leap. Make the filling, make the pasta, fill the pasta, make the sauce, serve. See, it's simple!

You will need some special equipment. We use the food processor a lot in the kitchen. If you don't already have one, get one! You'll also need a pasta roller. We have one that attaches to the stand mixer. It's much easier than a hand-crank, but one of those will do just fine. Lastly, you'll need a fluted pastry wheel. This is the thing that you'll use to cut the pasta. The fluted shape helps to seal the ravioli so they don't unravel in the water as they cook. 

Let's go on and get started, but before we begin, place a head of garlic and 4 medium beets in a covered casserole and drizzle this with olive oil. Place into a 350 degree oven for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the beets are cooked through. Allow everything to cool. You'll need these things later on. If you don't have the patience for that, just pick up some good quality canned beets and some roasted garlic from the olive bar.

For the goat cheese filling:
10.5 ounces goat cheese
1 head roasted garlic (peeled)
1 large egg
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
4 sprigs of thyme
1/2 teaspoon champagne vinegar

Kosher salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)

In the work bowl of your food processor, place the cheese, garlic, egg, panko, thyme, and vinegar. Pulse until all ingredients are well incorporated. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper to taste. Scrape into a covered container and place in the fridge until needed. Rinse the food processor in order to use it for the next step.

For the beet pasta:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup peeled, chopped, roasted beet (about 1 medium)
1 large egg

about 3 tablespoons water

Into the work bowl of your food processor, place the flour and beets. Let it run until the roasted beet is completely blended into the flour. The result will look like magenta sand. Add the egg and blend. With the food processor running, add the water one tablespoon at a time until the dough forms a ball and runs around the container all clumped together; you'll know when this happens. Gather the ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and place it into the fridge to rest. Rinse the food processor in order to use it for the next step.

For the pesto:
1 large bunch fresh parsley (long stems removed, about 2 cups)
1 bunch fresh mint (about 1 cup)
1 clove garlic
1 cup toasted hazelnuts (skins rubbed off)
Juice 1 lemon
1/2 cup olive oil

Kosher salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)

Into the work bowl of your food processor place the parsley, mint, garlic, hazelnuts, lemon juice, and olive oil. Pulse until everything is broken down but still chunky. Set aside until ready to assemble the dish.

To assemble the ravioli. Roll the pasta out starting at a #1 and working your way down to a #5 on your pasta roller. (Cut pasta to fit your well-floured work surface if it gets too long.) You should end up with about four 3-foot sections of pasta dough. Using a small ice cream scoop or a spoon, place about a teaspoon of filling on one half of the large pasta sheet. Leaving about the width of two fingers between each, continue to do this down the length of the pasta. Fold the side that's without filling longways over the filling and press the pasta all around the filling using the sides of your hands. Using the fluted pastry wheel, cut the front edge off of the pasta and run it in between each lump of filling. The hinged side should be left as is. This will make about 30 large ravioli.

In batches of 10, drop ravioli into a pot of well-salted water for about 2 minutes. Using a strainer, retrieve them from the water and toss in a large bowl with a teaspoon of olive oil to keep them from sticking together. Serve on a large platter garnished with the remaining beets and the pesto. (Serves 6 to 8.)

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