We eat a lot of beets at home. My husband loves them roasted, and he is happiest when I serve them with just a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper as a salad. Sometimes I add walnuts, Feta cheese, a scattering of fresh herbs (dill or tarragon work best), thinly sliced onions, and a splash of sherry vinegar. Other times, I stir in grated garlic, chili flakes, cilantro, toasted sunflower seeds, toasted pumpkin seeds, and a hint of red wine vinegar.
Since we eat so many beets, that leaves us with a lot of beet greens and beet stems. They never get discarded, and serve as inspiration for many meals. I boil the greens, then serve them with olive oil, lemon juice, and slivered garlic, or top focaccia dough with them before baking under a veil of Pecorino. As for the stems, they are delicious roasted: I boil them just a few minutes, then roast them with olive oil and grated Parmigiano, covered snugly under a sheet of parchment paper, for 10 minutes at 325 degrees. And I often prepare colorful beet greens and cheese ravioli, as below, napped in a light tomato sauce.
Even though the ingredient list looks daunting, the preparation is actually quite easy, so try this the next time you have beet greens at home. And if you have spinach but no beet greens, that works too!
For the dough:
- 2 and ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for the counter and trays
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs
For the filling:
- ½ pound fresh beet greens (or spinach leaves), washed and finely chopped
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- ¾ pound fresh whole-milk Ricotta
- 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
For the egg wash:
- 1 large egg, beaten to blend
For the sauce:
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 12 basil leaves
- 8 large ripe plum tomatoes or 4 large beefsteak tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced (about 3 cups diced)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
To cook the ravioli and serve:
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
- 1/2 cup basil leaves, cut into fine strips
Make the dough: Mix the flour and salt on a counter and shape into a mound. Make a well in the center and add the eggs to the well. Using your fingertips, work the flour into the eggs, then gather into a dough and knead by hand; add a little water if the dough is too dry or a little flour if it is too moist. Knead for 10 minutes, or until smooth, then shape into a ball, wrap in plastic, and let rest 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the filling: Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. Add the beet greens (or spinach) and cook 5 minutes, or until soft. Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl of cool water and drain. Squeeze dry and chop. Reserve the pot of boiling water to cook the ravioli later.
Combine all the ingredients for the filling in a bowl, stir in the chopped boiled beet greens, and adjust the salt to taste if needed. Set aside.
Assemble the ravioli: Cut the dough into 4 pieces. Working with 1 sheet at a time and keeping the others covered, roll each piece out into a thin sheet using a pasta machine; the sheets should be nearly transparent after rolling. Be sure to lightly dust the sheets of pasta with flour every time you roll them through the pasta machine or they may stick or tear.
Brush 2 of the lasagna sheets lightly with the egg wash. Arrange the filling in small mounds about 1 inch apart on the 2 lasagna sheets you just brushed with the egg wash. Top with the remaining 2 lasagna sheets. Use your hands to press out any air pockets around the filling and seal the edges well. Cut into squares using a fluted pastry wheel. Spread the ravioli out on a lightly floured tray in a single layer and refrigerate until needed, covered with a clean, dry towel. (The ravioli can be shaped up to 24 hours ahead and refrigerated, covered with a clean kitchen towel, or they can be frozen for up to 1 month; if you freeze the ravioli, do not defrost them before dropping them into the boiling water, but allow 1 extra minute for cooking.)
Make the sauce: Place the olive oil and basil in a 10-inch saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 1 minute, or until the basil releases its aroma, then add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Bring to a gentle boil. Cover and simmer 25 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. If the suace is soupy, cook it, uncovered, for a few minutes. If it is too dry, add a bit of cool water to loosen it.
Cook the ravioli: Return the reserved beet greens cooking water to a boil. Drop in the ravioli and the 2 tablespoons of salt and cook until al dente, about 4 minutes. Remove to a heated platter with a slotted spoon (reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water). Gently toss the ravioli with the tomato sauce, add the olive oil, sprinkle with the Pecorino, and stir very gently since the ravioli are delicate. If needed, thin out the sauce with some of the reserved pasta cooking water.
Serve immediately, sprinkled with the basil.