Casunziei Ampezzani (Beet Ravioli with Butter Poppy Seed Sauce)

beet ravioli

The Opening Ceremonies for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi took place yesterday.  All told, it was a pretty smooth start to an Olympics surrounded with controversy.  I know the ring didn’t light up, but considering Vancouver 2010’s cauldron mishap, maybe it’s best to concede that these things just happen sometimes.  In case you missed it yesterday, it’s worth finding footage of the Red Army Choir singing Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.”  Today’s events include the men’s singles luge, the men’s 500 meter speed skating, and the team dance portion of the new team figure skating category.

Like I did for the Summer 2012 Games, I’ll be taking a look back at the Winter Games of past years, starting with 1956.  The 1956 Winter Olympics were held in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.  At the 1956 Winter Games, the Olympic Oath was sworn for the first time by a woman.  Thirty-two countries competed, sending 821 athletes to compete in twenty-four events.  This was the last Winter Olympics where the figure skating competitions took place outdoors.  Soviet athletes made their Winter Olympics debut at these games, with the USSR competing for the first time.

Located in the Dolomites, Cortina d’Ampezzo is home to some great skiing and cycling.  It is also home to a specialty dish called casunziei ampezzani, a ravioli with beet and ricotta filling.  At first, this idea was pretty intimidating.  I couldn’t remember the last time I ate beets, and I had never prepared them.  Luckily I found a recipe that made this dish much less daunting.  Also luckily, Lane gave me a pasta roller attachment for my stand mixer for Christmas, so rolling out the pasta dough was a breeze.  You can still make these without a pasta attachment, or a pasta roller, but you’ll have to roll the dough pretty thin using a rolling pin.  It’s not a lot of work, it just adds to the hands-on time.  Roasted beets are a fantastic ravioli filling.  They’re earthy and slightly sweet.  The poppy seed and butter sauce is the perfect light sauce for the rich ravioli.

Casunziei Ampezzani (Beet Ravioli with Butter Poppy Seed Sauce)

Ingredients:

for the filling:

  • 2 large red beets (about 12 ounces, greens removed)
  • 1/2 C. whole-milk ricotta cheese (preferably fresh)
  • 1/4 C. grated asiago cheese

for the pasta:

  • 2 C. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 large eggs

for the sauce:

  • 1/2 C. (1 stick) butter
  • 1 Tbsp. poppy seeds

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place each beet on a sheet of aluminum foil.

Drizzle each beet with olive oil, wrap with the foil and place it on a baking sheet.

Roast for about 1 hour, until the beets are tender enough to be easily pierced with a knife.

Carefully unwrap the foil and allow the beets to cool.

Peel the beets and grate them into the work bowl of a food processor.

Add the ricotta and grated cheese to the work bowl of the food processor.

Pulse until finely chopped, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

To make the pasta dough, combine the flour, eggs, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the dough blade. 

Process for 30-60 seconds, until the dough forms a rough ball.

If the dough resembles pebbles or has the texture of cous cous, add  a Tbsp. water to the food processor and process again.  Repeat this process until the dough comes together.

Knead the dough a few times until it forms a smooth ball.

Sprinkle a little flour onto the dough and place it into a small bowl.  Cover it with plastic wrap and allow it to rest at room temperature for 30 seconds before rolling it out.

To roll out the dough using a stand mixer attachment or other pasta roller, roll the dough following the manufacturer’s instructions to a thickness of 4 or 5. To roll it out by hand, roll the dough out on a floured surface to 1/8 of an inch thick.  Work with one sheet of dough at a time and keep all others covered with a clean kitchen towel to prevent it from drying out.

Use a drinking glass or biscuit cutter to cut rounds out of the sheets of dough.

Spoon 1 tsp. of the beet filling onto each round.

Moisten your fingertip with water (it’s handy to keep a small bowl of water next to you while you work), and fold the rounds in half, pressing to seal the edges together around the filling.

Place the formed ravioli onto a floured sheet pan and continue to cut rounds, fill, and seal them.  Re-roll the scraps of dough and continue the process until all of the dough is used.

When you are ready to cook the ravioli, melt the butter in a large skillet and stir in the poppy seeds.  Reduce the heat to keep the butter warm, but do not burn the butter.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.

Add the ravioli in batches, cooking for about 2 minutes.

Remove the ravioli from the boiling water using a slotted spoon and place them into the melted butter mixture, tossing to coat.  Repeat until all ravioli are cooked and tossed in sauce.

Source: adapted from Italian Food, Wine, and Travel with pasta dough from The Kitchn

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