Cavatelli, a small shell-like pasta, has a certain sentimental value for many Italian-Americans. That's why Filippo Gozzoli, the new executive chef at the Columbus Circle location of Italian restaurant A Voce, decided to pair it with one of his less traditional sauces, a beetroot, smoked ricotta and pistachio topping that offers the heartiness of the meatiest red sauce.

"I wanted a dish that combined sweetness and acidity," says Gozzoli, explaining why he decided to marry beets and red-wine vinegar with the smokiness of the ricotta salata and pistachio crunch. The science, he explains, is to make sure that the "splash" of red-wine vinegar in the recipe has not rendered it too sharp or sour – he recommends eating as you work. In the end, Gozzoli claims to have created a vegetarian dish that seems a little less vegetarian and a little more Italian.

Beetroot Cavatelli
(Serves Six)

Beet Sauce Ingredients:

  • 6 jumbo beets
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 10 sprigs thyme
  • 1 head garlic
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 10 grams fennel fronds (chopped)
  • red wine vinegar (to taste)

Preparation of the Beet Sauce:

Step One
Roast beets in hotel pan with orange zest, garlic, olive oil, water, thyme, and salt until just cooked.

Step Two
Puree half of the beets in a blender or food processor, and chop the other half in a large dice.

Pasta Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lb fresh cavatelli (you can use beetroot pasta if available at your Italian specialty market)
  • 1 cup butter
  • shaved pecorino cheese (to taste)
  • salt (to taste)
  • pepper (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup pistachios (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup smoked ricotta salata cheese
  • about 40 whole fennel fronds

Preparation of the entire dish:

Step One
Cook the cavatelli in boiling water, for three-four minutes, to al dente. Reserve pasta water.

Step Two
To make the sauce, combine pasta water and 1/2 cup butter. Add the diced beets and pasta. Add more butter (to taste), pecorino, and a splash of red wine vinegar. Add olive oil, half of the fennel fronds and the beetroot puree.

Step Three
Garnish with grated smoked ricotta, pistachios, olive oil, and fennel fronds

Note: You can freeze dumplings for 3 to 4 days. Wrap in plastic on the tray spaced far enough apart so that air can flow in between them.