This past weekend, a friend at work who belongs to a local Brooklyn CSA gave me the biggest beet I’ve ever seen in my life. Now I’ll be honest I’ve tried to like beets in the past and haven’t found a preparation I like… Until now… In keeping with my current homemade pasta obsession, I decided to make Casunziei (pronounced ” cah-ZOON-z’yay”). This half moon shaped pasta is common in the north eastern region of Italy known as Dolomites.
I actually had this pasta at Babbo in December! And fun fact, they are commonly served as a Christmas Eve dish in towns in the province of Belluno.
Traditional fillings include either a Casunziei rossi with beets and ricotta (even red turnips) or casunziei Verdi with spinach. But, I chose (having that giant beet and all) to make the former which is often finished with a butter poppy seed sauce. (I’ve also given up meat for the month of May so this has been the perfect pasta dish – all vegetarian!)
While a traditional Italian pasta (albeit in a certain region of Italy), this is probably as far from what I commonly associated with Italian cuisine…. I tend to think of pasta as hearty with rich meat sauces. Yet, this is a perfect, simple dish for spring using fresh produce (which is really an element at the heart of Italian cooking). The colors of the dish are gorgeous – vibrant pinks and reds of the beets and specks of black poppy seeds.
I’ve never cooked with poppy seeds before… I didn’t even know where to buy them at low and behold they were in fact in the spice section at the supermarket.
It seems like a strange combination – beets and poppy seeds – but it goes together wonderfully! There you have it – pasta all the way from north-eastern Italy using Brooklyn produce in a Bedstuy kitchen!
- 1 pound beets, trimmed and scrubbed
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
- ½ cup ricotta
- ½ cup milk
- Salt and pepper
- Basic Pasta Dough
- ¼ cup poppyseeds
- 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
- parmesan cheese, for grating
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Drizzle the beets with the olive oil. Wrap in foil and roast for 45 minutes, until very tender. Remove from the heat and, once cooled, peel the beets and mash them with a fork or a potato masher.
- In a small bowl, combine the mashed beets, ricotta, and milk and stir well with a wooden spoon to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Allow to cool completely.
- Prepare the pasta dough and roll it out to the thinnest setting on a pasta rolling machine. Cut the pasta sheet into 2-inch squares. Place a scant tablespoon of the beet filling on the center of half of the squares and top with the remaining squares, pressing around the edges to seal. Set aside, covered with a damp towel, until ready to use.
- Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons salt. Cook the ravioli in the boiling water until cooked through and tender, about 5 minutes. Drain the ravioli and place in a large serving bowl. Toss with the melted butter and poppyseeds and serve with cheese grated over.