What Inspired this Soul-Fulfilling Red Beet Ravioli Dish?
Towards the end of my Journey to Greece, I spent a few days in Kosice, Slovakia, near the Hungarian, Polish and Ukrainian borders. I initially planned to spend one night in Kosice, yet immediately fell in love with its old town. I ended up staying three nights so I could leisurely visit the town, hang out in its cafes and restaurants, and spy on the hordes of people strolling on the main street, Hlavná ulica.
Hlavná ulica is such a vibrant street with a park, musical fountains, and loads of statues dividing the broad street into more cozy spaces for people to enjoy. At this point on my Journey to Greece, I needed a place to catch up on some work and to feel more grounded. I’d been travelling about ten days pretty much non-stop at that point.
East Meets West
As you can imagine, the various cultures inhabiting Kosice have inspired the food in this border town. Traditional tastes from eastern lands blend with flavors from western parts of the European Union.
One restaurant I loved in Kosice was Republika Vychodu because it used natural high quality ingredients to prepare homey down-to-earth healthy dishes.
One night at Republika Vychodu I tried their red beet pirohy, one of their several pirohy (pierogi) dishes featured on the menu. The red beet pirohy dish captured my heart and soul with its simple, earthy and yummy flavors mixing together. The colors of the red beets, green spinach and white goat cheese make this dish extremely attractive. I also enjoyed the use of hot pasta filled with cooked spinach topped by cold goat cheese and raw baby spinach leaves.
The next day I found myself craving the red beet pirohy dish I had devoured the night before. Although Kosice hosts loads of good places to eat, I found myself compelled to return to Republika Vychodu for another taste of its red beet pirohy. This time I took notes on how I might try re-creating this stunning dish. I had to find a way to make this dish again at home and, of course, to share the recipe with all of you.
How did I develop this Red Beet Ravioli recipe?
My first week back in Belgium after my Journey to Greece I started trying to prepare this Red Beet Ravioli with Spinach and Goat Cheese. I was fortunately staying at my Belgian family’s farm in Ecaussinnes, Belgium, so had access to fresh red beets, spinach and eggs to use in my attempts. My Belgian sister, Stéphanie also gave me a huge helping hand as well as valuable feedback.
I explored recipes for pasta, pierogi, gnocchi and other dumplings to find a dish similar to what I had enjoyed at Republika Vychodu. Surprisingly I could not find anything that resembled this dish. There was pasta dough using red beet juice for its color, pasta dishes featuring red beets, spinach and goat cheese, yet nothing for a pasta, pierogy or dumpling dough made out of cooked red beets. I quickly discovered that the dish I wanted to make did not fit neatly into a single cultural category. The main dough could be considered pasta, dumpling or pierogi, depending on your cultural point of view.
Although my initial taste was of a pierogi, I decided to start from a basic pasta recipe and to substitute cooked red beets for some of the liquids and eggs in the recipe. As with ordinary pasta, you can choose to prepare the dough with or without eggs. The recipe below is with eggs yet see notes below for an eggless alternative.
Since I had fresh spinach available, I chose to steam fresh spinach leaves and then sauté them with some shallots in a bit of olive oil for my filling. Another time I tried using frozen spinach with equal results. Whichever method you choose, make sure you drain the excess liquid before preparing the filling.
After a few attempts adding herbs, such as dill and thyme, I would recommend you refrain from adding a lot of herbs, as they will detract from the other flavors in the dish. This Red Beet Ravioli with Spinach and Goat Cheese succeeds in large part because of its blend of subtle flavors. However, you could try adding a couple grains of caraway seeds to highlight the earthiness of this dish. Go for it and see what you think. But remember to avoid adding too much.
If you like the flavor of red beets, you can add a small amount of pureed red beets into the filling to enhance this taste. Be careful, however, not to add too much.
Assembling the Red Beet Ravioli
Preparing the dough and the filling do not take much. One or both of these steps, nevertheless, may be done up to a day in advance to reduce the time needed to prepare the final dish.
Rolling out the dough, adding filling and sealing the ravioli are the most time-consuming steps of this recipe. They are also the most fun steps, especially if you are doing them with friends. It’s so easy to have one person rolling out the dough while a friend fills and seals the ravioli.
Making ravioli is also very kid friendly. Everyone can get involved. If you’re competitive, you can split the ingredients among you and then see who makes the most beautiful ravioli. In the end, like most ravioli dishes, the appearance of the ravioli is fairly insignificant. It’s the taste that matters.
You may assemble and then freeze the ravioli ahead of time. You can store frozen ravioli a couple months to use for other occasions. All you need to do is lay the assembled ravioli on a baking pan lined with baking paper and then stick the pan in the freezer about 30 minutes. You can then put the semi-frozen ravioli in sealed plastic freezer bags for future consumption. Do not thaw the frozen ravioli before adding them to boiling water to cook.
Cooking the Red Beet Ravioli
The Red Beet Ravioli need to be boiled about ten minutes. The exact time might depend on your dough so you may need a little more or less. If you freeze your ravioli in advance, count on an additional two minutes.
You might need to cook the Red Beet Ravioli in batches. In my cooking pot, about eight to ten ravioli can be cooked together in one large pot of boiling water. If your pot is smaller, you will need to reduce the number of ravioli cooked at the same time.
Once your ravioli are cooked, they may be kept warm in the oven in a cooking dish with a little olive oil until time of serving. If you prefer a crunchy exterior to your ravioli, they may be sautéed in a pan on one side before serving. Personally I would not sauté them the first time serving the ravioli, yet would definitely recommend this step when reheating leftovers the next day. It’s a great way to heat up the leftovers and add a different touch.
Serving the Red Beet Ravioli
To serve the Red Beet Ravioli, place some washed baby spinach leaves in a bowl. Add the hot ravioli on top of the baby spinach leaves. Finally, sprinkle some crumbled goat cheese, drizzle some olive oil and add a pinch of coarse grey sea salt and black pepper on the ravioli. Serve immediately and enjoy!
If you use fresh organic red beets and still have some beet greens, sauté the greens with a little olive oil and water and add them on top of the ravioli. These sautéed greens will enhance the beet flavor as well as add an extra touch of red to the dish. Most importantly perhaps, they will increase the dish’s nutritional value.
Try sprinkling some pumpkin seeds, walnuts or hazelnuts on the ravioli before serving them for extra nutritional value and taste. If you like nutty flavors, you might consider replacing some of the olive oil on top with pumpkin seed oil, walnut oil or hazelnut oil.
For your information, I tried making this dish with a dash of balsamic vinegar and did not think it helped this dish. In fact, it detracted from the natural flavors here.
Try making Red Beet Ravioli with Spinach and Goat Cheese soon. You will discover that it’s not as difficult as it looks and in fact is a lot of fun to make, especially with others. It will immediately become a family favorite, in particular when prepared with fresh seasonal ingredients available in the summer and autumn.
Inspired by this Red Beet Ravioli dish, I’ve also created a similar dish using cooked pumpkin called Pumpkin Ravioli with Spinach and Goat Cheese. Please try this delicious fall dish to mix up a bit your pumpkin repertoire. For other pumpkin dishes, click here.
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