While we have some favorite beet dishes (almost anything made with beets is tasty in our book), we still like to experiment with new combinations of flavors. This particular recipe came out of the desire to make up some whole-wheat (well, 50% whole-wheat, anyway) pasta to go along with dinner. As it so happens, we have a number of frozen egg whites left from when we made a batch of ice cream, and pasta is a great way to use them. The rest of the ingredients came from what we have in the refrigerator.
If you haven’t guessed already, this is a scratchin’ original and this is the first time we’ve written it down. It’s also the first time we’ve made it, too, so, if you’re so inclined, you can be the second to make it. Or, just change it up and make your own version.
We always use fresh beets and either roast, as in this recipe, or boil them before using them in recipes. They are far, far better than using canned beets, which are so awful that we won’t even touch them. Sure, it’s more trouble, but not that much, and, once you get used to dealing with fresh food, you’ll never go back. Pine nuts are expensive, so feel free to substitute another nut: walnuts would be nice.
Procedure in detail:
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Roast beets. Wash and trim beets and place on a sheet of aluminum foil. Rub with olive oil. We find it easiest to drizzle a few drops on each beet, pick it up with one hand and rub in the oil, then move on to the next beet. Sprinkle a bit of salt on the beets, wrap the foil around, and roast to 60 to 80 minutes, or until tender.
Peel beets. Remove the beets from the oven and let cool enough to handle. Pick up a beet and rub the skin. It should slip right off, leaving behind a smooth, skinless beet. This is the easiest way to peel beets, and roasted beets can be used in any recipe. Once peeled, slice into thin wedges and set aside.
Toast pine nuts. While the beets are roasting, place pine nuts in a small skillet over medium heat and toast until light brown, about 5 minutes. Don’t toast too long or the nuts will burn, and that’s not a good thing. Remove from pan and set aside.
Sauté beets. Melt the butter along with the rosemary in a large skillet over low heat. When melted, add beets and sauté until heated through. When heated through, lower heat to keep warm while the pasta boils.
Boil pasta. Cook the pasta until it’s slightly firm when you bite into it, or according to the package directions (if you didn’t make your own pasta). When cooked, drain thoroughly, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water. We just use a measuring cup to scoop out about 1/2 cup of the water before draining.
Combine and season. Add the pasta, pine nuts, and pasta water to the beets, and stir to combine. After stirring, taste and adjust seasoning with salt and freshly- ground black pepper. If needed, increase heat to cook off a bit of the pasta water and ensure that everything is heated through.
Serve. Plate with a garnish of Parmesan cheese, if desired.
This turned out pretty well. The beets paired nicely with the small amount of toasted pine nuts, and we liked the fact that the pasta turned a nice beety red/purple color. Our only issue is that every time we make cavatelli, we don’t boil it long enough, making for pasta that’s quite chewy. We just have to learn. Four stars.