Casunziei all'ampezzana (Beetroot ravioli with poppy seeds)

Casunziei all'ampezzana- Beetroot and cheese ravioli in a butter, lemon and poppy seed sauce.

This dish is a labour of love, and as it only requires a small amount of ingredients you need to make sure that you are using the best quality produce to get the most flavour.

This pasta dish originates from northern Italy in the Veneto region near the Dolomites, however there are variations like Casoncelli which originates in the neighbouring Lombardy region.  Some recipes use potato in the filling with the beetroot but I love the version that uses ricotta and parmesan to create a rich and creamy texture to the beetroot.

The shape is distinctive as it looks like little bon bons and once boiled, the bright filling brightens through the middle section of the pasta and looks like candy.

They are simply boiled and tossed in a sauce with butter, lemon, poppy seeds and extra cheese. The poppy seeds add a beautiful crunch to the sauce contrasting the creamy filling so delicately.

Makes- 50 ravioli, serves 4
Ingredients- 12
Cooking Time- 2 hours
Skill Level- Medium

 

 

Ingredients

Pasta dough

  • 300g of Tipo 00 flour
  • 3 eggs
  • Pinch of salt

Filling

  • 375g of ricotta cheese
  • 500g of 2-3 medium sized beetroot
  • 2 teaspoons of nutmeg, micro planed
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • ⅓ cup of breadcrumbs
  • 50g of parmigiano reggiano, micro planed

Sauce

  • 150g of butter
  • 1 tablespoon of poppyseeds
  • Juice of half a lemon

Method

Making the pasta dough

  1. Prepare your pasta dough by placing your flour into a large clean surface or bowl. Make a well in the centre of your flour, crack in your eggs, add a pinch of salt and begin whisking your eggs and slowly incorporating the flour into the eggs a little bit at a time.
  2. Once the egg mixture becomes thick, use your hands to knead the dough for about 10 minutes until all the flour has been incorporated. Cover the dough with either an inverted bowl or wrap in cling wrap and allow to rest for at least 1 hour on your benchtop. The dough is ready when it is a smooth ball, pliable when you go to shape it and leaves a dimple when you push your finger into it. 
  3. Prepare the pasta filling whilst you wait for the dough to relax.
  4. Generously flour your benchtop with flour and use your hands to shape into a large disk and cut into quarters with a knife.
  5. Use the pasta rolling attachment of your pasta machine, and start by using the widest setting (normally 0 or 1) and gently feed your pasta through once. Fold your pasta into thirds and then feed it again but flip your pasta sheet 90 degrees so it stretches it out in the opposite direction. This process is called lamination which gives the dough a nice texture. Repeat one more time.
  6. Then turn your setting to the next level (from 1-2) and feed your pasta dough through the roller. Repeat at least 5 times, each time increasing the roller setting. You may need to cut your sheet in half as the length will increase significantly as you stretch the dough. I use a kitchenaid pasta roller attachment and normally stop at 7 or until my pasta sheet is thin and nearly translucent. 
  7. Once your pasta is fully rolled out, grab a round cookie cutter or even a water glass and cut out as many pasta circles as you can. I used a round cutter 7.5cm in diameter.

Making the filling

  1. Prepare the beetroots by cutting the tops and boiling in salted water for 30-40 minutes or until tender and soft when pierced with a knife.
  2. Drain the beetroot and allow to cool down.
  3. Cut the root tops and bottoms and then gently rub the skin to remove and expose the flesh. Set aside and wash your hands and equipment.
  4. Drain the ricotta in a colander with a paper towel to remove as much excess moisture as possible.
  5. Grate the beetroot on the widest holes of a box grater and then allow any excess moisture to drain from a strainer/colander or muslin cloth. I use a spatula to push down and squeeze out as much water as possible.
  6. Place the ricotta, grated beetroot, nutmeg and salt into a blender or food processor and blitz until you have a smooth pink mixture. Fold in the breadcrumbs, parmesan and mix to thicken the mixture. The mixture should hold its shape and not drop when you turn it upside down with a spatula.
  7. Transfer the mixture into a piping back with a round nozzle, ready to pipe onto the pasta circles.

Filling the pasta

  1. Pipe small 3cm circular mounds of filling into the centre of your pasta circles. 

     

  2. Dip your finger into some water and trace the edges. Fold the circle in half into a semi circle shape and press to seal the edges and make sure the filling is contained.
  3. Gently flip the pasta so the straight edge is facing upwards, use both hands to pull the ends outwards and then downwards to create an also ‘bon ‘bon’ like shape.
  4. Finally use your index finger to push down into the filling to create a little dimple in the centre of the pasta. Place on to a tray lined with baking paper or dusted with flour and repeat this process for the remaining pasta dough.
  5. If you want to make this past in advance, cover the pasta with a tea towel until you're ready to cook with them so they don’t dry out.

Cooking the pasta

  1. Drop the pasta into a pot of salted boiling water and cook for about 3 minutes or until they float to the top of the pot.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a pan on medium and sprinkle over the poppy seeds.
  3. Transfer the pasta into the pan with some starchy pasta water and toss to coat the pasta in the butter and poppy seeds. I also like to squeeze a little bit of lemon to add some zinginess to the sauce. 
  4. Transfer to a plate and sprinkle over some micro planed parmesan cheese and extra poppy seeds.
  5. Serve immediately.

Watch the process

 

What to do with the leftover filling

If you have any leftover beetroot filling, I like to use this up in the form of vegetarian beetroot sausage rolls. If you want to add more vegetables to the filling, I like to grate some carrot and add it to the mixture for extra texture and sweetness. Simply pipe them onto a rectangle piece of thawed frozen puff pastry lengthways. Fold up the ends of the pastry to create a sausage roll shape. Brush with egg and sprinkle over poppy seeds and flakey salt. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden. Serve with a side salad and some tomato sauce.

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