Eat Sfoglia at Home

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Farro Spaghetti, Beets, Brown Butter, Poppy Seeds. Photo: Courtesy of Sfoglia

“I chewed in contemplative silence. I took another bite. At some point, I may have closed my eyes in a fit of exaggerated foodie reverie,” Adam Platt wrote in his 2006 review of Sfoglia. Frank Bruni stopped in for lunch in 2007 because back then it was nearly impossible to get a table at dinner. “Since Sfoglia opened a year ago, it has amassed a sizable following, and for these devotees it’s not just a restaurant. It’s a religion,” he wrote in a two-star review. Owners Ron Suhanosky and Colleen Marnell-Suhanosky opened an adjoining store, Tutto Sfoglia, in 2007, and last week released a cookbook, Pasta Sfoglia. Below, a recipe from the book for “Farro Spaghetti, Beets, Brown Butter, Poppy Seeds.”

Farro Spaghetti, Beets, Brown Butter, Poppy Seeds

Recipes from two New York women respected in the food business influenced this dish: In her book A Fresh Taste of Italy, Michele Scicolone (once my Brooklyn landlady) offers Spaghetti with Rubies, where the rubies are chunks of roasted beets sautéed in olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes. At her legendary Brooklyn trattoria Al di Là, chef/co-owner Anna Klinger serves ravioli stuffed with beets tossed in brown butter and poppy seeds. Beets, together with poppy seeds, are typical in dishes of the northern Italian regions of Friuli and Alto Adige. With all these factors in mind, I came up with my own combination of pasta with beets and poppy seeds.

Serves 4-6

1 pound red beets, cleaned
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup water
1 pound good-quality farro or whole wheat spaghetti
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 heaping tablespoon poppy seeds
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup pasta water
½ pound goat’s milk cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the beets in a glass or ceramic baking dish. Cover with the olive oil and water. Bake until a tester easily passes through the beets, about 1½ hours. Let cool.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. 3. Peel the beets and cut into chunks. Add to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process to a rough puree. Add the spaghetti to the boiling water and cook according to the package directions.

4. Add the butter to a 10-inch skillet. Turn on the heat to high. Brown the butter, about 2 minutes. Add the poppy seeds and toast for 2 minutes. Add the pureed beets, salt, and the ½ cup pasta water to the skillet. Stir to fully incorporate.

5. Use a wire-mesh skimmer or tongs to remove the spaghetti from the pot and place them directly into the skillet with the sauce. Stir to combine.

6. Divide the spaghetti into equal portions and place on warm plates. Use two round or oval soup spoons to form little balls of the goat’s milk cheese. Place a ball on top of each serving.

7. Serve immediately.