Beet Ravioli with Butter and Poppy Seeds (Casunziei)

Makes 3 or 4 main course or about 6 first course servings
Time: 1 hour, plus time to make the pasta

Dishes like this are the reason I love eating at great Italian restaurants like Al di Lá-they're good eating and a ton of work to make at home. If, however, you do go through the trouble of making the ravioli, you'll need little more to round out the meal-a salad of bitter greens to start and some fresh fruit to finish. A bottle of good northern Italian red to wash it all down would be ideal.

If you're not going to take the time to make stuffed pasta-and I'd be the last person to blame you-you can still take advantage of these flavors, and do what many Italians would do: Roast the beets, coarsely chop them, and boil some spaghetti. When the spaghetti is ready, toss it in the melted butter with the beets for a minute and serve each portion with a dollop of ricotta and a sprinkle of poppy seeds.

4 large or 8 medium roasted beets (see sidebar)
2 eggs
1/2 cup ricotta, preferably fresh, drained briefly
20 tablespoons (2 1/2 sticks) butter, melted
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 recipe Egg Pasta Dough (see below)
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, or more to taste
4 teaspoons poppy seeds

1. Put the beets in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the plastic blade and process until they're finely chopped (or chop them finely with a knife or pastry cutter). Transfer to a large bowl and add the eggs, ricotta, and H cup of the melted butter; stir to combine. Season liberally with salt and pepper, stir, taste, and add more salt or pepper if necessary. Refrigerate until ready to use, up to 1 day.

2. To make the ravioli: Lay a length of rolled pasta out on a counter lightly dusted with flour and place small teaspoonfuls of the filling evenly on half of the dough, about 1 inch apart. Brush some water between the mounds of filling so the dough will stick together, and fold the unfilled half of the dough over onto the other, carefully pressing outward from the filling to the edges of the pasta, eliminating any pockets of air. Cut between the ravioli with a pastry wheel or sharp paring knife, and keep the ravioli separate from each other until you are ready to cook. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. Put a large pot of salted water on to boil and turn the oven on to its lowest setting; warm 4 pasta bowls in it.

3. Drop the ravioli into the boiling salted water, cooking them in batches if necessary. They will take about 3 minutes to cook. When they're done, they will float, the filling will be firm, and the pasta tender.

4. Portion the ravioli out among the warmed pasta plates. Pour some of the remaining melted butter over each portion, grate Parmigiano- Reggiano over each to taste, and finish each plate with a large pinch of poppy seeds. Serve immediately.

Egg Pasta Dough

Makes: About 1 pound, enough for 3 to 4 main course servings, about 6 first course servings, or 25 to 30 raviolis
Time: 20 minutes, plus time for the dough to rest

The best pasta contains just three ingredients: flour, eggs,and salt. It varies only in the ratio of flour to eggs and the technique. This recipe, a combination of my own experience and that of Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune and Anna Klinger of Al di La, can be used for [recipe_link slug="pasta-kerchiefs-with-poached-egg-french-ham-and-brown-butter"]Gabrielle's Pasta Kerchiefs[/recipe_link], [recipe_link slug="beet-ravioli-with-butter-and-poppy-seeds-casunziei"]Anna's Beet Ravioli[/recipe_link], or any other recipe calling for freshly made pasta.

Cook the finished pasta as soon as it's done, or allow the sheets to dry for
a few hours (or even a few days) and cook them later.

2 cups (about 10 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
3 eggs
1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
A few drops of water, if needed
1 teaspoon salt

1. Combine the flour and salt in the container of a food processor fitted with the plastic blade and pulse once or twice. Add the eggs and olive oil and turn the machine on. Process until a ball begins to form, about 30 seconds. Add a few drops of water if the dough is dry and grainy; add a little flour if dough sticks to the side of the bowl.

2. Turn the dough out onto a dry, lightly floured work surface and knead until it is smooth, just 1 or 2 minutes. Add water by the half teaspoonful if the mixture is dry; add flour if it is sticky. This should be an easy dough to work. Cut the dough into 6 pieces; wrap 5 pieces in plastic. (If time allows, wrap it all in plastic and refrigerate for 1 to 24 hours.)

3. Clamp a pasta rolling machine to a counter, and sprinkle the counter lightly with flour; have more flour ready. Put a piece of dough through the widest setting (usually #1). Decrease the distance between the two rollers, making the strip of dough progressively thinner. Note that as the dough becomes longer, it will become more fragile. If at any point the dough sticks or tears, bunch it together and start again. You will quickly get the hang of it. Use as much flour as you need to keep the dough from sticking, but no more than necessary or the dough will become too dry.

4. When you pass the dough through setting #6 (on most machines; in any case, thin enough to see your hand through a sheet of it), set it aside on a lightly floured towel and cover it. (The rolled-out pieces will be about 5 inches wide.) Repeat the process with the remaining pieces of dough.

5. To make kerchiefs: Cut the dough into the largest squares you can (about 5 inches); you'll need 4 for 4 servings of Gabrielle's pasta.