beets are one of those things i used to wrinkle my nose at. kind of the way kids feel about things like cabbage and brussel sprouts. you know, like this, “ewwwww. you expect me to eat that? GUH-ROSS, MOM!” i think i’ve mentioned before that as a youngin’, i wasn’t much for adventurous eating. things with odd textures, odd colors, and odd tastes just weren’t for me. this list included, at one time or another, mushrooms, onions, and red meat – as well as the aforementioned brussel sprouts, cabbage and beets.
let me tell you a funny story. the summer before i entered my freshman year of high school, my family, along with one of my oldest and bestest friends, kim, spent two weeks in france. we did a week in an apartment in paris that was full of crinkly wallpaper and aged herringbone wood floors and the kind of crown moulding that makes me cry with joy. of course, as a teenager, i didn’t appreciate the architectural details of the space; i had yet to develop a taste for interior design.
i also had yet to develop an adventurous taste for food, or really, a taste for food at all. my parents, who have always been amateur foodies themselves, love a good french delicacy – but me, at fourteen? not so much. escargot? you think just ’cause you’re dressing those babies up in a nice name i’m going to want to eat snails? AS IF. duck? no thanks. i don’t really like eating things that i’ve seen waddling around the pond in my hometown’s college campus. i wrinkled my nose so much in paris, it’s a wonder it didn’t get stuck like that.
since i didn’t want to eat any of the fancy food served in parisian restaurants, i subsisted on a lot of bread and cheese during that trip – you know, stuff i could pronounce, without funky textures or weird names. but one day, strolling through a french farmer’s market, we came across the most delectably beautiful stand of fresh strawberries. you can’t imagine the glee i felt – something i could (and would) eat! i picked up a pint right then and there, and continued to peruse the market, biting off the heads of one juicy strawberry after another, sticking the tops in the lid of my plastic container.
as would be the fate of a picky fourteen year old, a few paces later, i managed to accidentally spill my entire pint of strawberries, bitten off heads and all, into a giant vat of fresh paprika. i should tell you right now that i don’t speak a word of french, and at fourteen, i was beyond awkward, totally shy, and had trouble stringing sentences together in english, let alone in another language. my parents did the dirty work of apologizing profusely, while i attempted to pick my strawberries out of the bin (my hand was immediately swatted away – clearly in hoping to remedy the situation, i just made it worse). there are few times in my adult life that have rivaled this experience in terms of embarrassment factor. suffice it to say, we didn’t return to that part of the market ever again.
the moral of the story? it would do me well to be a bit more adventurous in my eating. which is why i’m proud of this recipe, in which i took one of my formerly despised foods and transplanted into a food i love: pasta.
i’m pretty happy with the result, which was creamy and delicious and also, HOT PINK. i mean, what’s not to love about hot pink pasta? NOTHING, if you ask me. basically, i got these ENORMOUS beets at the farmer’s market on saturday, and in lieu of taking the traditional route and putting them into a salad, i decided i’d turn that salad into a pasta.
beets’ sweetness is extremely well complimented by the creaminess of goat cheese, and whatdya know, i’d picked up some fresh garlic and black pepper infused chevre at the market as well! so i roasted my beets, then tossed them with goat cheese, a little pasta water, some fresh italian parsley, and lemon juice. and you know what? hot pink pasta is YUMMY.
so, let’s go forth and make it, shall we?
1 oversized beet (seriously, mine was enormous) or a few small beets
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 box of fusili or penne
3/4 cup goat cheese (if you can find herbed or flavored, go for it)
2 tbsp fresh italian parsley, diced and sliced
to make, roast your beet(s) in a 425 degree oven. you’ll want to drizzle them with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then wrap them in aluminum foil. then, place them on a baking sheet or in a pan (i stuck mine in a glass bread pan) and stick ’em in there. cook for anywhere from 25 minutes to an hour. mine took a while because they were so huge, but smaller ones will take closer to the 25 minute mark. they’re done when you can easily piece the skin with a fork.
once your beets have cooked, remove them from the oven, and let them cool a bit. you need to peel the skins off, and you don’t want to burn yourself doing so. while you’re waiting for them to cool, put your pasta water on to boil, and zest and juice your lemon. set both the juice and zest aside. now, chop up your parsley. regular parsley would be fine here, but italian parsley is best. mint would also be delish!
once your water boils, dump your pasta in and add a bit of olive oil into the pot. stir and set your timer according to the directions on the box. now, peel your beets and chop them up into chunks. a bit bigger than bite size is perfect.
when your pasta finishes cooking, drain and reserve a bit of pasta water. put the pasta back into the pot, and add your goat cheese, beets and lemon juice. stir until the cheese has melted into a creamy sauce. if you need, add some water or white wine to thin the sauce out a bit more. dole pasta out into bowls and top with parsley and lemon zest.
there you go, folks. hot pink beetalicious pasta!