Valentine's Day

Beet-Ricotta Ravioli & Strawberry Meringues

What food do you think of for Valentine’s Day? Is it steak au poivre, oysters on the half shell, champagne truffles? While pondering what recipes really fired our creative juices, we first fell down a heart-shaped rabbit hole. Jeannine has made a fabulous heart-shaped meatloaf in the past, while Zanthe has used pretty ceramic molds to turn out fluffy coeurs à a crème. But then local inspo struck from what’s possibly Park Slope’s most storied dining establishment, Al di là. This Northern Italian neighborhood mainstay serves a delicate beet ravioli whose luscious pink filling suddenly said “Valentine’s” to us, as clear as day. Also, what dish is more a labor of love than ravioli? And when you make your own, you can eat as many as you want! We broke out our Kitchen-Aid pasta-rolling attachment and discovered that the texture and taste of homemade pasta really does kick all the others to the curb (sorry, wonton wrappers). These pink meringues had been on our to do list for some time, and they handily use up the leftover egg whites from the pasta dough, so just like that, it all fell into place. Show some love for whomever you cook for with these two special dishes—and if that’s you, so much the better because then you can really eat all the ravioli you want. And you’re going to want all of these.

Beet-Ricotta Ravioli (Casunsiei)

For the filling:

3 medium sized beets, roasted and peeled

1 egg

½ cup whole milk ricotta

4 tbps melted butter

2 tbsp grated parmigiano reggiano

Salt and pepper to taste

For the pasta:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

5 egg yolks and 1 whole egg

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp cold water

Pinch of salt

Egg whites for sealing

For the sauce:

1 stick or 8 tbsp of salted butter

Poppy seeds

Lemon zest

Freshly grated parmigiano reggiano

Prepare the filling

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash the beets and wrap them in foil while they’re still damp. Roast beets in middle of the oven for 50-60 minutes. Pierce with a small knife to make sure they are done. Once the beets have cooled to room temperature, rub the skin off with your hand—it should peel off easily. Pulse the beets a few times in a food processor until they are finely chopped but not pureed. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the rest of the filling ingredients. The filling can be made and refrigerated up to 1 day in advance.

Make the pasta

In a wide bowl, add the flour and create a well in the middle. Add the eggs and olive oil to the well and incorporate the wet ingredients into the flour with your hands or a fork. If the dough seems too dry, add a tbsp or two of cold water. Once the dough comes together, remove it from the bowl and knead for a few minutes on a floured surface. Wrap the dough in plastic and let rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours.

Once dough has rested, cut in half and begin rolling out the dough. We used a Kitchen-Aid attachment and started rolling out the dough on the lowest (widest) setting. After your first pass through the roller, fold the dough in half and feed through again. Gradually set the roller thinner and thinner until the dough is thin and uniform, feeding the dough through the rollers once on each setting. We stopped at the number 5 setting.

Assemble the ravioli

Place a sheet of dough on a lightly floured surface and spoon scant tablespoons of filling horizontally about 1 ½ inches apart and about ½ inch from the bottom edge of the pasta sheet. Now brush the egg wash with your finger along the edges of the pasta and between the filling. Lift the top edge of the pasta sheet and fold it over the filling to meet the bottom edge. Press on the edges and in between the fillings to seal completely and squeeze out any air bubbles. Using a fluted pasta cutter, pizza wheel or sharp knife, trim the pasta edges and cut between the fillings to create the ravioli. Lay out ravioli in a single layer on a lightly floured baking sheet or one lined with parchment and cover with a clean kitchen towel until ready to cook.

To cook

Gently drop the ravioli into a large pot of salted boiling water and cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Make the butter sauce while the ravioli cooks, but keep an eye on the ravioli.

In a saucepan over medium high heat, melt 1 stick of butter, adding a few tablespoons of the pasta cooking water to emulsify. Swirl the pan until the butter melts and the sauce thickens slightly. Remove from heat.

Spoon the butter sauce over the cooked ravioli and garnish with the poppy seeds, lemon zest and some freshly grated parmigiano. Buon appetito!

Makes 24-30 ravioli

Strawberry Meringues

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen Everyday

⅔ cup/135 grams granulated sugar

2 tbsp/15g strawberry powder, made from grinding freeze-dried strawberries

¼ tsp salt

2 egg whites at room temperature

1 tsp lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 250℉ and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix sugar strawberry powder and salt together in a bowl, making sure there are no lumps.

In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, in a bowl that is dry and clean, beat egg whites until they start to hold soft peaks. Slowly mix in the sugar mixture until meringues is very thick and glossy, then beat in lemon juice.

Using two spoons or a disher, drop onto parchment–they won’t spread much, so you can leave an inch or so between them, and if you’re using spoons, you can swirl the tops decoratively. You can also play with sizes here: we made ours about 1½  tbsp big, but little ones are cute as well. Cook in center of oven for at least one hour, then turn off heat and let them cool in the oven for maximum crispness. They will still be soft in the middle, most likely: if you like them more crisp, you can cook them longer at 200℉.

Makes 12-16 large meringues.

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