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Beetroot Pasta Disaster

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This intriguing pasta roll turned into a resounding disaster. Can you make something out of it?
Beetroot Pasta Disaster

For years I had dreamt about making one of these Italian pasta rolls. A large sheet of hand-rolled pasta stuffed with beetroot and ricotta, rolled and tied in a cotton cloth before boiling. Surely that must be good. Well, see how it went. At least the pictures look nice!

First boil beetroots until cooked through. These came from my local farmers' market - earthy as hell but at least they don't have that Tchernobyl aftertaste of some imported root vegetables.

My loyal shoot-through umbrella and its 1000 Watt sun watches over the simmering beetroots.

Remove from the pot without burning your hands ...

... peel and dice.

Mix with one egg and a pound (500gr) of the best ricotta you can afford.

Mix. If you need to die a shirt in pink, place the plunging mixer right next to your chest while wearing the shirt and turn on.

Grate some Parmesan cheese ...

... and mix it in.

Season with nutmeg and pepper. No salt, the Parmesan sees to it.

So far, so good. Now for the disaster.

Break four of the best eggs you can find. When the hen sometimes sees the sun, she makes better eggs, so go for really-free freerange eggs.

Mix with as much semolina flour as it takes to make pliable but non-sticky dough.

Amalgamate with your fingers ...

... until you have a smooth ball. Knead for 10 minutes. Wrap in plastic foil and leave to rest for 30 minutes.

Spread the dough in one single sheet, if possible with clean edges and as thin as you can. There lies the rub, for despite my best efforts I could not make my dough thin enough. If you need to patch a burst tire I'll send you a piece of it.

You need a tub to boil this in one piece. I had to make do with an 8 liters / 4 gallons pot filled with water. It took me the better half of the day just to heat the water up. Delicately place the pasta sheet in the water ...

... boil for 2-3 minutes or until soft.

Remove delicately from the liquid. Do not waste the hot water by pouring everything down the drain, we will need it in a couple minutes.

Let the pasta sheet drip for a couple seconds, then lay it flat on the table. Start covering with the beetroot mixture...

... until fully covered. Leave 2''/ 5cm on all sides near the edges.

Wash a clean towel. Boil it for a minute or so in the pot.

You might want to trim the edges for a cleaner look. Roll the sheet.

Place on the towel...

... then roll the cloth and wrap tightly.

Tie with some kitchen string, first on both ends ...

... then all around the body, salami-style. Bring the water back to a boil, then delicately place the roll in the pot.

If at first it doesn't fit, let it boil for a couple minutes and the roll will gradually curve and take the shape of your pot.

Boil for 10 minutes or so.

Remove with care and let drip for a few seconds.

Here is our mighty bonbon, the diva having a rest after the swim.

Let's close the deal with the diva. Starts unwrapping the cloth, but gently, before she wakes up. After all this work, what's inside must be worth it, right?

Wrong. Our bonbon does not look all that impressive now that the makeup is gone.

Let's cut some slices. Oops, the roll is oozing out pink blood like a Martian elephant.

Mmmm. Not so nice, even with the parmesan and melted butter on top. Surely, had I not used a bulletproof pasta sheet, it might have yielded a larger sheet and thinner stuffing layers. Perhaps you will have better luck than I did?



  • #1
  • Comment by cookery
fx, sometimes your failures are more entertaining than your successes!
  • #2
  • Comment by Peter K
Well how did it taste then?  
  • #3
  • Comment by AlexFalk
#2, Agreed.
Although a pretty dish is a great and wondrous thing, the taste is the most important thing.

Looks good to me though, very rustic. I would not hesitate to dive right in with fork, knife and a glass of wine.
  • #4
  • Comment by Sofia
Maybe it might work better if you baked the roll instead of boiling it, for example with a bechamel sauce on top, and a sprinkle of herbs after baking.

By the way, thank for all the beautiful photos and info. on your site. Keep up the good work!
  • #5
  • Comment by Jen
I'm inspired by your near-impossible kitchen adventures! I love beets, though. Perhaps the mixture could go in some manicotti or other (pre-made) pasta for us less hard-working food bloggers? Overall, a very visceral post. Good work.
i actually think it looks delicious!  but i also really like the idea of a pasta roll -- do you think you could bake it instead of boiling it in the dishcloth?
  • #7
  • Comment by WanderingTaoist
Same question here: how did it taste? I think I'd go for baking it in bechamel as well, canelloni-style. I have a feeling that boiling the roll with stuffing inside would make it rather bland. In baking, on the other hand, the tastes would concentrate I believe.

By the way, your serious ragu bolognese has become a legendary dish in our household, I literally have to make a new batch every month or so, we freeze it and use for lasagna, canelloni or just plain pasta. It's fantastic. So don't give up, please!
"Our bonbon does not look all that impressive now that the makeup is gone." Haha! You make me laugh so much.

Beetroot kinda looks like taro. And your kitchen is just so amazing O_O. That photography set up must have cost a fortune!
  • #9
  • Comment by Alys
Thanks for the pictures and blow by blow.
I think that beets often need some acid to brighten them. Lemon, Balsamic vinegar, or ...?

From the ingredient list it could have been a wonderful ravioli ... then you wouldn't get the "ooze".
  • #10
  • Comment by Paul Mckenna
Beetroot ravioli is Bruno Loubet's signature dish. I ate it at Isola in London and was unimpressed. Maybe beetroot isnt my thing. Maybe for you  if it was a hearty meat sauce it would have worked.
Or perhaps the pasta was too much. Few of us have to practice cucina pauvre because we have to.

Thankyou for publishing your mistakes. We all make them so we are all in the same club.

Keep on keeping on

  • #11
  • Comment by Avi
Great site and what an amazing kitchen setup.

I've spent many afternoon filling kreplachs (ie perogies) and my mom always looks at the filling to ensure that they are of "the proper consistency".  Your filling it seemed to be a bit on the runny side...my recommendation is more of a binder whether additional egg yolks for setting or perhaps even some bread crumbs, ground crackers, potato starch.  

  • #12
  • Answered by fx
Cookery, thanks for enjoying this article!
  • #13
  • Answered by fx
Peter, I'm afraid my pasta did not taste like much, way too thick. like chewing edible cardboard. The beetroot cream is OK but needs some support.
  • #14
  • Answered by fx
Sofia, thanks for visiting. Yes I think by making smaller and thinner pasta sheets and rolling them like canneloni/enchiladas, then baking them, that would have worked better.
  • #15
  • Answered by fx
Jennifer, thanks for the visit and good luck if you try this with manicotti or plain bought lasagna rolled like canneloni!
  • #16
  • Answered by fx
Katy, yes absolutely this could be baked, but in several smaller rolls. Thanks for your visit!
  • #17
  • Answered by fx
Wandering Taoist, I am very sorry to hear that my Ragù Bolognese kept you off the path of the Tao, where one must forget the difference between good and bad, between yes and no!
  • #18
  • Answered by fx
Ahmad, thanks for visiting! Yes the lamp and rail was not the cheapest thing in the kitchen, but you can have a fairly descent light with a tripod, umbrella and small remote flash for a reasonable price with similar effect!
  • #19
  • Answered by fx
Alys, I think you could definitely stuff ravioli with this and serve with lemon rind and butter. Good idea!
  • #20
  • Comment by thuan
i have to say, your recipe for the lamb w/ lemon & potatoes went terribly for me - visually and in taste.  
at least in this one, the colors are spectacular!

on another note, how many knives do you need?!?! good sir!
Sorry it didn't turn out like you wanted!  What kind of cutting board is that in the 5th pic?
  • #22
  • Comment by Kate
fx, perhaps you could just finely chop the beetroot, then fold into a drier cheese/egg mixture?  I would think that the beets would have liquefied  when they were blended, which might account for the runniness. (Runnyness?  Is that even a word?)  The filling, with a few more eggs added, could make a very interesting baked pie, something along the lines of a quiche, but violently pink and incredibly delicious!  

Thanks for posting this, it's a new-to-me way of preparing beets, a vegetable I've loved since I was a kid.   
  • #23
  • Answered by fx
Thuan, only too many knives are enough when it comes to cooking. These are just the small, regular knives, I have the really nice ones in a drawer and boxes.
  • #24
  • Answered by fx
Vicki, in the 5th pick it is a black plastic chopping board from IKEA, they sell them for a couple francs and I bought a dozen. Very handy, you can peel and trim onions on one, throw it in the washer, take a fresh one to slice the onions, and so on. No need to stop and clean the dust off between steps. Warmly recommended even though I'd like them bigger.
  • #25
  • Answered by fx
Kate, thanks for your suggestions, I'll try again one of the many traditional beetroot recipes from Italy. The colors are too striking not to!

Now that everyone's favorite Tastespotting is gone, we'd like to pick up where they left off!  Please submit posts at foodiefest.tumblr.com and help spread the news!


  • #27
  • Comment by Saxit
Instead of making pasta of the eggs, just use the whites, whip them up, turn them gently into your beet mixture, and make a sufflé... not sure if it would taste good though, and it would probably need some additional work than what I just mentioned.
  • #28
  • Comment by Nick
Two suggestions which might help:
i. Buy the pasta sheet. The pasta makers have large pasta rollers which do a great job producing a very thin large sheet. alternatively rent an Italian grandma for the day, she'll probably do a great job too.
ii. Roast the beetroot. It concentrates the flavour.
  • #29
  • Comment by Paulina  C. L. Tognato
It isn't look so good, but your photos are very beautfulls!
I learn with your mistakes,too.
I think you used much beetroot fresh.
Sorry, my english isn't "the best of"!
What you think about make the beetroot purèe, reduction a half , and them, additionaire the other ingredientes?
You will have less water in your stuffed.
Thanks for all!!!!!!!!
  • #30
  • Comment by Patrick
A quick note, one: thank you for you web site, I really enjoy it and your regular updates. Two: I am a chef based in Hong Kong and have had a similar dish on my menu before(except as many have suggested, I had it as a ravioli filling. I used to roast the beetroots, un-wrapped in a fairly hot oven and I also used to put the cheese in a fine mesh strainer for a few hours. all this helped reduce the slop factor...!Happy cooking fella and keep up the very enjoyable work!
  • #31
  • Comment by Orme
Hello FX, a mighty pink disaster!  I agree with Kate that perhaps folding in the beets would work better visually than the puree, maybe a bit of green as well?  But I  would oven roast you beets first to caramelize and dry them out a bit--they just rendered too much liquid.  Also, as I think you already know, looks like you didn't knead your pasta long enough...thanks, as always for your high tech postings. Your kitchen sun is something!
  • #32
  • Comment by Paul Mckenna
So did you eat it because you had made it.
Or did you chuck it and go for a takeaway ?
And if so what takeaway,

  • #33
  • Comment by Gayle
Enjoyed your story and liked seeing your camera setup. I wondered how you took your great photos.
FX- first, your kitchen is beautiful! Second, the beetroot pasta baby is so funny, the floating pasta sheet, the lipstick smeared bonbon. Must have made a memorable evening, you're still the best!
wow! that is quite a setup you have there! looks good! I am not so sure about beets, but this looks so good, and I can't imagine anything with that much cheese could come out otherwise.
I have no idea what you're talking about, it looks delicious to me!  I know, I wasn't there.... but to me the pasta looks almost like pie crust! Which sounds really good right now, at 11:30 pm., even if it was stuffed with beets.
  • #37
  • Comment by emma p
Sorry the dish wasn't successful. Your blog is incredibly entertaining, even when the recipe doesn't quite turn out. I really enjoy all of your adventures.
I look forward to your next plunge.
  • #38
  • Answered by fx
Nick, I don't know where I can rent an Italian mama, but definitely roasting the beetroots sounds like a great idea within my capabilities!
  • #39
  • Answered by fx
Patrick, thanks for visiting, this is indeed praise from Caesar!
  • #40
  • Answered by fx
Orme, thanks for visiting! Yes pasta dough needs kneading, and if you use the macchinetta often you tend to forget this as it does it for you. Very hard to knead pasta dough!
  • #41
  • Answered by fx
Paul, I ate it all right, just wasn't all it promised to be!
  • #42
  • Answered by fx
Gayle, I'll be posting more about the photo-taking, there is much to be said about it! But the light is really the most important part.
  • #43
  • Answered by fx
Callipygia, thanks, I'm glad my beetroot tribulations turned into something enjoyable by other people!
  • #44
  • Answered by fx
Christey, thanks for visiting and congrats for the pictures too! Seems you are having fun down there in Florida with the husband cooking and you taking the pictures like a pro! Cheers
  • #45
  • Answered by fx
Traci, thanks for your praise! Unfortunately when the pasta starts looking like  a pie crust, it stops being digestible. Ah, but what fun I had!
  • #46
  • Answered by fx
Emma, thanks for your kind words! I'll try to make my next article about a success though!
  • #47
  • Comment by Carolina de Witte
I love the idea. I am with the others who suggested roasting the beets first. The problem I would have is that the minute the beets come from the oven, I want to eat them all right away. I have lost several salads I meant to make from a variety of beets, because I ate most of them while hot with butter and pepper...told myself I was just having a 'sample' to make sure they were edible...LOL!! I am really loving your site, thanks for sharing this all.
  • #48
  • Answered by fx
Carolina, if you can be content with beets straight out the oven you should not complain, this is great food and very healthy! Perhaps you might cook a gallon at time to make sure there is some left for whatever recipe you were planning?
  • #49
  • Comment by CKfusionist
Hmm , i never like beetroot. Guess the taste is a tad too strong for me. My housemate from Germany seems to enjoy it though....Beetroot with tuna anyone ?
  • #50
  • Comment by Kim
Fx, I just found your site and love it :)big time foodie and your site is lots of fun..How about mixing in some potato in the dough? It gives it body and sturdiness, and tastes great with the beets.mushrooms are good to add also; they aborb the liquid and give good flavor.Neat recipe..hope all of us can tweak it . great idea.Kimberly
  • #51
  • Answered by fx
Kimberly, thanks for visiting, yes indeed potatoes might have helped!

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