One of the things I look forward to most this time of year are sweet spring carrots. I welcome their delicate sugary snap after a long season of the bitter, trunk-like carrots of winter, and find myself incorporating them into as many meals as I can. While I enjoy them raw, dipped in a creamy hummus or simple vinaigrette, I especially love roasting them, which concentrates their flavor and sweetness. All spring long, I incorporate roasted carrots into our meals -- whether on their own, or topped with a bright herb pesto or a nut gremolata for some textural contrast. I serve them over creamy risotto, or purée them into warm, comforting soups. Most recently, I decided to incorporate them into a ravioli filling, which turned out so beautifully, I had to share it here with you.
Making homemade ravioli is definitely time-consuming, but if you do have the time, I really encourage you to try it. If you've never made pasta dough before, its simplicity will surprise you. It really is amazing what some flour, egg, and water can so easily become.
I do hope you give this a try. And as always -- please let me know what you think. Hearing from you is what makes it all worth it.
roasted carrot + pine nut ravioli
If you have the time, homemade ravioli is really worth the time and effort. In this version, the creamy ricotta, toasted pine nuts, and sweet, caramelized carrots work together in perfect harmony to create a filling that is rich in both flavor and texture. This is a perfect dish to make in the spring, when sweet, baby carrots are at their best.
for the pasta dough (makes about 8 ounces of dough):
1 cup flour, plus more if needed
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon water, plus more if needed
pinch of salt
semolina flour, for dusting
for the carrots + filling
10-12 small carrots, peeled + greens reserved for garnish
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
1/4 cup high quality ricotta cheese, homemade if possible
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
salt + freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup ricotta cheese or crème fraîche
extra virgin olive oil
coarsely ground black pepper
reserved carrot greens, roughly chopped
First prepare the pasta dough: add the flour to a large work surface and form a mound. Make a well in the center, and carefully pour the egg, olive oil, and water into it (making sure it is completely surrounded by the flour). Add a pinch of salt. Using a fork, slowly incorporate the flour into the wet mixture, starting with the inner edges and working outward, until a shaggy, sticky dough starts to form. At this point, knead the dough for about 8-10 minutes, until completely smooth. Your dough should be dry enough that it does not stick to your work surface, but not so dry that it doesn't form a nice, smooth dough. If you find your dough to be too dry, add more water, a tiny sprinkle at a time. If your dough is too wet, you can also add more flour, again just a sprinkling at a time. Once your dough is completely smooth, wrap it tightly in plastic and allow to rest at room temperature for at least 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. On a sheet pan, toss the carrots with the olive oil, brown sugar, and a generous pinch of salt. Roast, turning once halfway through, until the carrots are tender and just beginning to caramelize on the outside, about 20 - 25 minutes (depending on the size of your carrots). Set aside to cool.
Line a plate with paper towels and spread the ricotta over it. Allow to drain for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a food processor, add the toasted pine nuts and process until finely ground. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl. Add 4 of the cooled, roasted carrots to the food processor and process until completely puréed (you should end up with approximately 1/2 cup of purée). Add to the mixing bowl with the pine nuts, along with the drained ricotta cheese and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste.
Unwrap the pasta dough and cut into quarters. Lightly dust a large work surface with semolina flour. Starting with the widest setting on a pasta roller, pass the first piece of dough through the rollers. Decrease the width of the rollers by one notch, and roll the dough through again. Continue in this method, decreasing the width by one notch each time, until you reach the second to thinnest setting (number 8 on the Atlas machine). Lay the rolled sheet of dough on top of the semolina flour-dusted surface. Roll the remaining 3 sheets of dough and arrange them side by side over the semolina flour (do not allow them to overlap, as they will stick to each other).
To form the ravioli, spoon 2 teaspoon mounds of filling on the first sheet of dough, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Using a pastry brush, or your finger, lightly brush around the filling with water to moisten the dough. Carefully lay another sheet of dough on top of the first sheet, using your fingers to press out any air pockets that form around the mounds of filling. Using a small biscuit cutter (about 2 1/2-inches in diameter), cut around the mounds to form small, circular raviolis. Pinch the edges of each ravioli to make sure they are completely sealed. Place the formed raviolis in one layer on a plate dusted with more semolina flour. Repeat this process with the remaining 2 sheets of dough.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Liberally salt the water and add the ravioli. Cook until just tender, about 2 - 3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the ravioli from the water.
To serve, spoon a large dollop of ricotta cheese (or crème fraîche) on each plate. Arrange the ravioli and a few of the reserved roasted carrots over top. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with coarse ground black pepper and a few chopped carrot greens.
yield: approximately 14 - 15 raviolis; serves 2 - 3