Raviolini di Rape e Cipolla col Burro e l’Erba Cipollina

Miniature Beet and Onion Ravioli with Butter and Chives

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Complex

  • About 150 small Ravioli, for

    6 to 8

    Persons

Appears in

In Italy, except for the thousands of wives and mothers cooking in family trattorie, a professional female chef is next to unknown. One of the few was Anna Gennari, a slight, high-spirited, immensely talented blonde who has since retired as executive chef of the Carlton Hotel’s Royal Grill in Bologna. The following recipe is of her devising.

Onions and pasta are a natural and—to those as fond of onion as I and most other Italians are—a delicious combination. The flavors of three members of the onion family supply the prevalent harmony in this recipe: in the stuffing onion itself dominates, joined by a few scallions; the beets add a surprising complementary flavor; the sauce is simply butter and fresh chives.

In this, as in any other Italian dish that requires a large quantity of onion, the onion’s sharp bite must be removed by cooking it down slowly until it is very soft and sheds all its juice; that juice is boiled away, then the onion is sautéed briskly until it becomes colored a light brown. Only at that point is it both sweet and savory.

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Ingredients

For the stuffing

  • 1 large or 2 medium raw red beets, about ounces; or, less desirable, canned whole beets
  • Green tops of 6 scallions
  • pounds onions, peeled and sliced as thin as possible
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • Salt
  • Black pepper in a grinder
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano (Parmesan)
  • cup fine, dry, unflavored bread crumbs, toasted in a pan as described
  • 1 egg yolk

For the pasta

  • Homemade pasta dough made with 2 large eggs and about cups unbleached flour, as described

For the condiment

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons chives chopped very fine
  • Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano (Parmesan) to taste

Method

  1. Discard the green tops of the beets and wash the bulbs thoroughly clean of all soil. Put them in a pot with ample water to cover and bring to a boil. Cook until pierced easily with a fork. Drain, peel, and chop extremely fine, using a food processor or any other method. If using canned whole beets, drain and chop fine.
  2. Wash the green scallion tops and cut them into the thinnest possible rings.
  3. In a skillet or sauté pan put the sliced onion, the scallion rings, and the 3 tablespoons of butter, cover the pan, and turn on the heat to very low. Cook until the onion is very soft, no less than 1 hour. If you check you will find that, at first, the onion will have thrown off considerable liquid. It will eventually vanish in the cooking.
  4. When the onion is very soft, uncover the pan, add salt and liberal grindings of pepper, and turn up the heat to high. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion becomes colored a pale nut brown. Transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon or spatula, and let cool completely.
  5. When the onion is cold, add the chopped beets, the 1 cup of grated cheese, the bread crumbs, and the egg yolk and mix thoroughly to amalgamate all the ingredients uniformly.
  6. Knead the dough for the pasta as described. Cut off a piece, wrapping the rest in plastic wrap. Thin the dough in the pasta machine, step by step, as described, until you reach the next to last setting of the machine. Trim the edges of the strips to make long rectangles about 3 inches wide or slightly less. Do not discard the trimmings. Knead them into the remaining ball of dough, rewrapping it after with plastic wrap.
  7. Pinch off some stuffing, shaping it into little balls about the size of a hazelnut. Make sure that wisps of onion do not protrude or they may keep the raviolini from sealing tightly, causing them to open while cooking.
  8. Dot the strip of pasta along one edge with stuffing, keeping the lumps about inches apart and ¾ inch set back from the edge. Fold the undotted side of the strip over the stuffing, forming a long, flat tube. Press the 3 cut edges of the tube firmly together. Use a pastry wheel to trim the edges, sealing them tightly, and to cut the tube into tiny squares of about inches or less.
  9. Separate the squares and spread them on a dry cloth towel spread on a counter, making sure they do not touch each other at any point because otherwise they will stick together.
  10. Thin out another strip of pasta and repeat the entire stuffing and cutting operation.
  11. When all the raviolini are done and spread out on towels, if you are not going to cook them immediately turn them from time to time so they will dry evenly and not stick to the towel.
  12. When ready to serve, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt, gather the raviolini in a towel and, when the water resumes boiling, drop them into the pot. Drain them, retrieving them with a perforated scoop, when they are done but still firm to the bite. Shake them gently in a colander to throw off water. Transfer them immediately to a warm serving platter, toss at once with the 6 tablespoons of butter and the chopped chives, and serve piping hot with ample grated cheese available on the side.

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