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.
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:
Roast beets in hotel pan with orange zest, garlic, olive oil, water, thyme, and salt until just cooked.
Puree half of the beets in a blender or food processor, and chop the other half in a large dice.
- 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:
Cook the cavatelli in boiling water, for three-four minutes, to al dente. Reserve pasta water.
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.
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.