Goat Cheese and Beet Plin with Tarragon
Photo: Kelly Campbell
Pasta pillows stuffed with a mixture of beets, goat cheese and Parmesan are tasty enough. But Philadelphia chef and Rustic Italian Food author Marc Vetri takes them a step further: He tosses the "plin," as he calls them, with a butter-tarragon sauce and tops them with more Parmesan. The dish isn't baked like a traditional mac and cheese, but it's no less decadent.
- 1 pound pasta dough (see separate recipe: Handmade Pasta)
- 1/3 cup fresh tarragon leaves, coarsely chopped, plus some whole leaves for garnish
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 8 equal pieces
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- Freshly ground pepper (optional)
- 1 large red beet (6 to 8 ounces), scrubbed
- 1/4 cup fresh white goat cheese
- 1 small egg, lightly beaten (2 1/2 Tbsp.)
- 1 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
For the filling: Preheat the oven to 425°F. Wrap the beet in heavy-duty aluminum foil, place in a shallow pan, and roast until fork-tender, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove and let cool enough to handle. Peel the beet, cut it into small chunks, and puree along with the goat cheese, egg, and Parmesan in a food processor or with a handheld immersion blender. Season with salt and pepper to taste and spoon the filling into a pastry bag or ziplock plastic bag with one corner cut to make a small piping hole.
Lay a pasta sheet on a lightly floured work surface, one long side parallel to the edge of the counter. Trim the short sides so the edges are straight. Cut the dough in half lengthwise, preferably with a fluted pasta cutting wheel, to make 2 long sheets. Lightly mist the dough with water.
Pipe teaspoon-size rounds of filling along the bottom half of each pasta sheet, right along the bottom edge, leaving 3/4 inch between the rounds. Pick up the dough beneath the filling on the long side of the pasta sheet and fold the pasta and the filling over, working your way down the pasta sheet so the entire bottom edge of the pasta and the filling is folded over once (see the photos on page 85). Repeat, folding the entire bottom edge of the pasta and the filling over once more. You should be left with one long strip of naked pasta above the folded part. Using both hands, gently pinch your fingertips and thumb together on the pasta between each round of filling to create a pillow of filling that stands a bit more upright. Use the pasta wheel or a knife to trim the entire length of excess pasta to within 1/2 inch of the pillows. Cut between each pillow to create individual pastas, being careful to leave an even, sealed edge on each side. Repeat with the remaining pasta dough and filling. Toss with a little flour and set aside. Makes about 48.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in the plin, quickly return to a boil, and cook until tender yet firm, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving the pasta water.
Just before the pasta is done, ladle 1 cup pasta water into a large sauté pan. Add the chopped tarragon and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the butter, one piece at a time, whisking until melted before adding the next piece. Continue until the butter is incorporated and the sauce is creamy. Slide the drained plin into the warm sauce. Toss gently until the sauce is creamy, adding more pasta water as needed. Divide among warm pasta bowls and garnish with Parmesan and tarragon. Add a few grindings of black pepper if you like.
From Rustic Italian Food (Ten Speed Press) by Marc Vetri.