Bright & Beautiful Beetroot Rotolo

In my experience beetroot is one of those foods, either people love it or they hate it. I personally love beetroot, especially when roasted, as it is in this recipe.

A rotolo is made of pasta sheets that are spread with a filling, rolled up (not unlike a swiss roll) and boiled. This variation has simple, delicate flavours that make it a wonderful centrepiece for a summer lunch or dinner. A rotolo has the added advantage of being very impressive when plated. Though simple in concept, it’s one of those culinary magic tricks that will have your guests in awe, even before they taste it!

First off, there are 3 main ingredients that make this rotolo what it is. The beetroot, the pasta and the ricotta. For the best results, you really want use fresh roasted beetroot, fresh homemade pasta and good quality whole milk ricotta. To make a faster, easier version you can, however, make some substitutions. You can use fresh packaged pasta bought from the store and you can use tinned whole baby beetroots. I would advise against using low fat ricotta as the ricotta is the binding agent in this recipe, and low fat ricotta has a more watery consistancy.

You will need something to wrap the rotolo in while it cooks. I use pieces of muslin which I keep on hand for such things but you could use an old tea towel if you have one about. Whatever you use needs to be clean, lint free and free of perfume & chemicals, you’ll also need to be happy for it to end up beetroot stained. You can buy muslin or cheesecloth for around $4 per metre at most fabric and craft stores. I buy it a metre at a time, cut it up into a few different sizes and use the pieces until they get tatty or stop cleaning up nicely. Muslin you buy will need washed before it is used. You must never wash your food cloths in laundry detergent. It leaves a residue on fabric that can be unsafe in food. Instead, I use warm water and at least 1 cup of vinegar to wash my food cloths.

 Ingredients

4 medium beetroots or 450g can baby beetroot
500g ricotta
3 garlic cloves
2 sprigs fresh oregano
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 sprigs fresh oregano
200g fresh pasta sheets
30g butter
100g jar capers in vinegar
½ cup fresh sage leaves
salt and pepper to season

You will also need:
cotton kitchen twine
large roasting pan suitable for the stove top
1 large piece of muslin or a tea towel
1 small piece of muslin or a cheesecloth

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 190°/170° fan forced. Rinse the beetroot and place them whole into a medium sized saucepan. Sprinkle with salt and fill the pan with water until the beetroot is covered. Bring the water to the boil and boil the beetroot for 15 – 20 mins until it has softened but is still firm.

2. Drain the beetroot, put them in a roasting tray with the unpeeled garlic cloves and the oregano sprigs. Drizzle with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and season with sea salt and cracked pepper. Give the tray a good shake to coat the beetroot and pop it in the oven. Cook for 30-40 minutes until the beetroot is soft and burnished. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10-15 mins.

3. While the beetroot is roasting, if you’re making the pasta, make your sheets then join them at the edges with water to form a 35cm x 25cm rectangle. Dampen your muslin and lay the pasta out flat, cover with a damp tea towel. If you’re using store bought pasta, dampen your muslin and a tea towel well, so that they are very damp but not dropping. Lay the pasta sheets out on top of the muslin to form a 35cm x 25cm rectangle, overlapping them as little as possible. Cover them with the tea towel and leave to sit and soften for 20-30 mins. If they are still a little dry and don’t look they are going to roll well, take a pastry brush and brush them well with warm water and leave for another 10 mins. Whichever pasta you are using, make sure it doesn’t dry out while it’s waiting.

4. Over the sink, tip the ricotta onto your small muslin or cheese cloth. Bring the corners together and twist to drain as much liquid as you can. In a bowl, combine the ricotta and oregano leaves from the pan. Cut the end off of one or two of the garlic cloves and squeeze the garlic into the ricotta mix, add the garlic to taste. Once the beetroot is cool enough to handle, trim the roots and stems and coarsely grate them. Add to the bowl, combine and season well with salt and pepper.

5. Spread the mixture evenly onto your pasta leaving a gap along one of the long edges. Dampen the exposed edge of the pasta with water, using your finger. Starting on the other long edge of the rectangle, roll the pasta into a roll and seal by lightly pressing along the seam. Roll it up in the muslin and tie the ends with twine.

6. Pop a roasting rack into your large roasting pan, to prevent the rotolo from sticking on the bottom. Place the pan on the stove, fill with boiling water and lower the rotolo in. Bring to the boil, cover and cook for 10-15 mins until the pasta is el dente. Remove from the water with tongs and allow to cool slightly.

7. Meanwhile add the butter to a small saucepan, when the butter starts to bubble add a tablespoon or two of the caper vinegar, drain the capers and add them to the sauce. Cook for 2-3 minutes then add the sage leaves and cook for another minute.

8. Unwrap your rotolo, slice it and serve it warm on a platter drizzled with the sauce, accompanied by a green salad and fresh bread.

Serves 4 for dinner or 6 for lunch.

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