Roasted Beet Gnudi with Pistachio Pesto
2 to 4 hours
The touchstone version of pesto is sublime, but it’s been done to death, including by me. So let’s explore new territory. The color contrast of this dish is indisputably gorgeous, and the combination of earthy dumplings and herbaceous sauce is unbeatable.
About 2 pounds beets
1 cup shelled pistachios
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 eggs, plus 1 yolk
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 4 ounces), plus more for serving
Salt and pepper
⅓ to ½ cup semolina flour, as needed
2 cups loosely packed fresh basil
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 cup olive oil
1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Scrub the beets; wrap them individually in foil and put them on a baking sheet. Roast until a thin-bladed knife pierces one with little resistance, 45 to 90 minutes (they may cook at different rates; remove each as it is done).
2. While the beets are roasting, put the pistachios on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven, shaking the pan every few minutes and watching like a hawk, until they are golden and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes.
3. When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel them. Cut the beets into chunks and puree in a food processor until completely smooth; transfer to a bowl and wash the food processor.
4. Combine the breadcrumbs in a bowl with the eggs, ricotta, ¾ cup Parmesan cheese, and 1 cup beet puree. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir the mixture until combined, then let it sit for about 10 minutes. Add semolina flour a little at a time until the mixture wants to stick to your hands but won’t quite; it should feel like fresh play dough. Take care not to overmix. With floured hands, form the dough into tiny balls about 1 inch in diameter and put on a platter in a single layer. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight, covered.
5. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Combine the basil, pistachios, garlic, lemon zest, a sprinkle of salt, and ½ cup oil in a food processor or blender. Puree, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container if necessary and adding the remaining ½ cup oil gradually. Stir in the remaining ¼ cup Parmesan. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
6. When the water boils, cook the gnudi, a dozen or so at a time, until they come to the surface, about 3 minutes; remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm. Scoop out a cup of cooking water and use it to thin the pesto; start with just a tablespoon so you don’t overdo it; you’re looking for the pesto to coat the back of a spoon. To serve, spoon some pesto onto the bottom of 4 plates or shallow bowls, top with the gnudi, and sprinkle with more grated (or shaved) Parmesan.