My husband and I recently visited my family in Philadelphia and finally had the opportunity to visit one of Chef Marc Vetri's restaurants, Osteria. I have followed Vetri for a few years and own two of his cookbooks: Rustic Italian Food and Il Viaggio Di Vetri. Everything always looks amazing in his cookbooks and on his menus. I'm a pasta freak, especially fresh pasta, and I am actually embarrassed to admit how long it took us to finally visit one of his restaurants. We were not disappointed. From the bread to the salads to the pasta... the pastaaaaaa. Glorious. The most amazing part was that the best thing we ate at that meal was something we didn't order--it was something that was comped to us (long story as to why.) It was the beet and goat cheese plin with tarragon.
Paper-thin pasta sheets, creamy beet filling, sweet butter sauce, salty cheese all topped with tarragon--a spice I never would have thought of--all together, heaven. "Plin" meaning a "pinch" are the teeniest agnolotti/ravioli you can imagine. Each little plin became a battle for my husband and I to fight over. As I always do after experiencing an incredible meal at a restaurant, I attempted to recreate the dish at home.
After a quick Google of the dish, I actually found the recipe on Oprah.com with this accompanying photo. This recipe also appears in Rustic Italian Food (which is a good reminder for all of us to not forget about the cookbooks on our shelves for inspiration.)
This presentation above looks just like it did in the restaurant. My attempt at the recipe, as pictured at the top of this post, doesn't look nearly as beautiful, but the taste was spot on. I also did not manage to get my pasta sheets quite as thin, nevertheless, the shocking hot pink beet filling shined through, and the taste... the taste. Perfection.
Goat Cheese and Beet Plin with Tarragon
- 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)
For the beet filling:
- 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.