Beet Ravioli with Tofu Spinach Filling

Making pasta from scratch was one of the first large cooking endeavors I took on as a kid. Hours later the kitchen and myself would be covered in flour as dinner was finally served. The efforts were well worth it as the egg-y smooth texture of homemade pasta is often an ethereal experience.

Today I am a touch faster, but I give myself plenty of time to enjoy the process.
Pasta Makers really, really make life a lot easier, especially for homemade raviolis. I say this entirely from experience. For fettuccine and other egg pasta used in dishes such as Chicken Noodle Soup, I am fine using a rolling pin, but in the case of ravioli I draw the line. It once took three of us my roommate, her boyfriend and myself hours of determination to roll out dough as thinly as possible only to end up with what was thick, difficult to eat ravioli not exactly what we were looking for, especially since our upper-bodies were sore from rolling.

This time, I had a Pasta Maker and a few tablespoons of Beet Powder for fun color. If you don’t have beet powder, it is entirely optional, but I love the dark pink color of this pasta.

The filling is Vegan, because my visiting niece is dairy-free and her friend is a Vegetarian so we settled on this Vegan filling since rarely do they enjoy the Ricotta-Herb filled versions. The dough however is not Vegan- so sorry.

I am sure a few of you are thinking this pasta making stuff is crazy, but the filling is perfect... well, I have an alternative solution if you are looking for a faster and not-requiring-a-pasta-maker version try: Wonton wrappers! They are usually cut into the appropriate square shape and with a few dabs of water the wontons easily come together as ravioli. They won’t be bright pink, but at least they have the tasty dairy-free center!

What are your favorite ravioli fillings?

Beet Ravioli with Greens, Pine Nut, and Tofu Filling

3 cups flour
2 tablespoons Beet Powder
4 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-3 tablespoons water

In a food processor, blend together the flour and beet powder. Slowly add one egg at a time, blending to incorporate, drizzle in the olive oil to form a ball. If it doesn’t start coming together slowly add the water a few splashes at a time until the dough is a big roll-able ball.
Let the dough rest to relax for about 30 minutes. Wrap up in plastic and set in the fridge until ready to use.

Meanwhile, make the filling:

Greens & Tofu Filling
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch of spinach or other dark leafy greens, finely chopped
10 ounces tofu, crumbled
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, optional
5-8 leaves of basil
salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic into the olive oil, toss in the chopped greens and wilt slightly. Add in the crumbled tofu, sprinkle in the nutritional yeast, basil, salt and pepper. Toss and then cool slightly.

Tomato Sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped/minced
24 ounce can crushed roasted tomatoes
½ cup chopped basil
1 pinch red chili pepper flakes, optional

Place a large saucepan over medium heat. Add in a drizzle of olive oil and the garlic. As soon as you can smell the garlic starting to heat and sizzle add in the tomatoes. Bring up to a simmer, stirring occasionally for 10-15 minutes until the sauce is to your desired consistency or flavor. Toss in the basil. If you like a smoother sauce, puree in a blender after you add the basil and then return to the pan to simmer slightly.

Put it all together:

Cut the pasta dough into at least 4 balls. Roll out the pasta dough thinly, using a pasta maker is ideal, but with some serious work a rolling pin can do the job.

Roll out two thin sheets and lay them next to each other. Dollop on 1 tablespoons of filling every 2 inches a part. When the sheet is full of dollops dab a little water around each pile of filling. Lay the second sheet of pasta dough on top. Lightly press the sheets together, pressing around the filling to ensure it is secure without air bubbles. With a pizza or pastry cutter, slice through creating even square raviolis. Set aside on a drying rack and continue making raviolis until you run out of pasta or filling.

Once all of the pastas are made and arranged on drying racks, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add in a few generous pinches of salt once it is up to a rapid boil. Toss in a few of the raviolis being sure to not over crowd the pan. They will float to the top when they are ready. Scoop off a few, sauce up with the warm tomato sauce and serve.

Make sure the ravioli have plenty of room to dance and cook in the boiling water. When they float to the top, scoop them off:

Have extra rolled out thin dough? We ran out of filling before we ran out of dough, so we just sliced them into noodle-sized pieces and boiled them after we boiled the ravioli. A little extra fresh pasta treat!


Sun Dried Tomato Caesar Salad

I feel I can reasonably mess around with Caesar to create my own version (you know such as removing the raw egg that makes so many nervous) but for me the quintessential flavor of Caesar Salad comes from Anchovies. I hear a few of you gagging at the thought, but bear with me and try it. I serve this regularly to anchovy haters (albeit fish eaters) and they have become believers. If you cannot get past the *idea* of eating flavor-packed fish paste in your salad dressing, try a splash of Worcestershire Sauce instead-- but be warned this also often contains anchovies. While you are reading the back of the label on the Worcestershire watch out for the now often included High-Fructose Corn Syrup. I find generic brands are sometimes 'safer'. If you have to avoid the anchovies altogether (Hi there Vegetarians!) Annie's makes a lovely Worcestershire without anchovies or HFCS.

This particular version of Caesar salad is inspired by a large jar of Costco sun-dried tomatoes marinating in olive oil and a Gluten-Free friend coming over. Toasted pine nuts replace the crunch provided by the usual croutons. Sun-dried tomatoes add just enough flavor to make this salad memorable.

Sun-Dried Tomato Caesar Salad

For the dressing:
1 clove garlic, crushed/minced
1 lemon juiced (about ¼ cup)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbls anchovy paste (or 1 tbls Worcestershire sauce)
¼ cup plain yogurt
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

For the salad:
4 cups romaine lettuce, torn into pieces
1/2 cup sun-dried tomato pieces (marinated in olive oil)
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts*

Meanwhile, whisk together the garlic and lemon for the salad dressing. Allow to sit for about 2 minutes as the acid from the lemon mellows out the garlic. Add in the Dijon mustard, anchovy paste and yogurt. Whisk until combined. Taste to see if you need more of any flavors. Slowly emulsify in the olive oil: while whisking rapidly, pour the olive oil in to the dressing in a thin, steady stream. Continue whisking until all of the olive oil has been added. Taste again. Fold in the parmesan cheese.

Drizzle some of the dressing on to the romaine lettuce. Toss lightly to coat. Add more dressing as needed. Toss in about half of the sun-dried tomatoes and pine-nuts. Garnish with the remaining sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts.

*To toast pine nuts, gently shake raw pine nuts in a skillet over medium heat. Allow to sit for 1-2 minutes. Shake. Repeat until evenly golden. Keep your nose involved. If you smell burning remove the pine nuts from the skillet as soon as possible.