Cheat Day: Beet Raviolis with Homemade Ricotta and Sherried Leeks

“And on the seventh day they rested pigged out!”

For the last few years, Young Kenneth and I have subscribed to the food philosophy of 6 days on 1 day off. In other words, 6 days a week we eat clean and closely follow a Paleo type diet. We eat lots of lean protein, healthy fats and tons of veggies–we both feel at our best when we’re eating this way. However, life is all about moderation and indulging is one of life’s great pleasures so we believe giving yourself a break once a week is a healthy way to ensure you stay on track. So on that seventh day we indulge, big time–I’m talking waffles for breakfast, burgers for lunch and usually some elaborate meal complete with dessert for dinner. This works for a few reasons: if I’m craving something during the week I simply write it down, knowing that on Sunday I can have whatever my heart desires and because I have that designated day I don’t cheat during the week because it takes away from the anticipation of Sunday. After eating healthy for a week and then pigging out, bad food hits you like a brick and you want to go back to eating your veggies and protein the next day.*

Last week’s cheat day was one of my all-time favorite, this recipe, for beet raviolis with homemade ricotta. If you’ve never had homemade ricotta you are in for a treat. The addition of the honey makes for a every so slight sweetness and the whole milk could not be more sumptuous—paired with the sherried leeks (they’re as good as they sound) and the earthy beet pasta, this dish is so good I was humming while I ate it.

Obviously this is not a “30 minute meal” so I broke up the process into two days—roasting the beet and making the dough on the first day and then stretching the dough and making the ricotta on the second day. These time-intensive recipes are best when made with loved ones and many glasses of wine. I suggest making some over the holidays with Christmas music in the background and since this is not the most figure-friendly recipe why not indulge when calories don’t count anyways ;)

July Moon Inspirations - Beet Ravioli Ingredients

Beet Pasta Dough

1 medium sized beet roasted until soft and peeled

2 cups all purpose flour

½ cup semolina flour

2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon salt

2 sprigs thyme, minced

2 leaves sages, minced

Using a food processor, process the beet until smooth. Add in the other ingredients and pulse until they are incorporated and begin to form a ball, the dough will be sticky. Transfer to a floured surface and knead the dough for several minutes until smooth and elastic. Wrap in plastic wrap and let the dough sit on the counter for 1-2 hours. Using either a Kitchen Aid mixer with a lasagne attachment or a pasta roller, separate the dough into four sections. Run the dough through the pasta maker starting with the lowest number and gradually increasing until you reach level 5. Do not process the dough past this level as it will be too thin for the ravioli. You can either make 5-6 large raviolis (4 inches) like I did or smaller 1-2 inch raviolis, the process is the same and the only thing that changes is the width of your pasta sheets. Lay finished sheets on a floured surface.

July Moon Inspirations - Homemade Ricotta

Ricotta

4 cups whole milk

¼ cup full fat greek yogurt with honey

1 tablespoon lemon juice

pinch of salt

cheesecloth

1 cup leeks

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons vermouth or cooking sherry

Combine the first four ingredients in a sauce pan and gradually bring them to medium high heat, stirring constantly to avoid scorching. Using a kitchen thermometer increase the heat until the curds and whey begin to separate between a 185 and 195 degrees. Remove the pan from the heat, cover and let it rest for 10 minutes. Place a fine mesh strainer on top of a bowl and lay your cheesecloth on top of the strainer. Once cooled, pour your ricotta mixture into the cheesecloth and let it drain for a minute. Take the opposite ends of the cheesecloth and tie them together forming a small bushel. Remove the mesh strainer and slide a wooden spoon through the knots of your cheesecloth. Place the spoon on the bowl so that your cheesecloth is hanging inside the bowl, but not touching the bottom this allows the remaining liquid to drain from the cheese. Let your ricotta rest for 20-30 minutes. 30 minutes rest time will produce a dryer ricotta that is best suited for the raviolis.

While the ricotta rests, prepare your leeks. In a saute pan, melt your butter over medium-high heat. Add in the leeks and saute until they begin to brown. Deglaze the pan with half of the vermouth, let the liquid evaporate and then deglaze the pan again with the remaining vermouth allowing the liquid to evaporate again before removing the pan from the heat. Let the leeks cool and then transfer to a cutting board and mince finely. Once your ricotta has rested, remove it from the cheesecloth and gently fold in your leeks. This will be your filling for the ravioli.

Carrot Puree (optional)

8 large carrots, peeled and tops removed

2 tablespoons light olive oil

salt and pepper

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. Place carrots in a large baking dish with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast your carrots for 30-40 minutes until golden and caramelized. Place carrots in a food processor and puree.

July Moon Inspirations - Beet Ravioli with homemade Ricotta 1

Assembling the Ravioli:

1 egg beaten

Ravioli Sheets cut to desired size

Ricotta

2 tablespoons butter

Depending on the desired size of your ravioli, place a small amount of ricotta in the center of your ravioli. Using a pastry brush, brush around the ravioli (on all sides of the ricotta) with egg wash. Place another sheet of ravioli on top and press the edges firmly together. The egg wash will help the two pieces of pasta adhere to one another so don’t skimp. Bring a pot of water to a boil, gently place a few ravioli at a time into the hot water. When the raviolis float to the surface they are done. My large ones took about 3 minutes. To get them a crisp, golden brown, place a few tablespoons of butter in a saute pan and heat over medium high heat. Once the butter begins to bubble, place the raviolis in the pan and brown on each side, about 30 seconds a side. In a shallow bowl, ladle in some carrot puree, place your raviolis on top and garnish with a sage leaf.

*If you’re interested in reading more on the topic, Tim Ferris explains it in detail in his book The Four Hour Body, which I highly recommend.