Beets were on my top food offender list when I was a kid. Beets didn’t come from a farm or the grocery store, they came from a salad bar. Sizzler, Soup Plantation, even Carl’s Jr. (yes, they had a salad bar in the ol’ days) all had ‘em. Sliced or julienned, my auntie would pile them on her salad. All I knew was, they went straight from a can into a tub and they tasted like dirt in dark purple water. Who would eat that? It was one vegetable I flat out hated. Conversion, er, enlightenment(!), came 20 years later, via a slightly sweet, earthy roasted beet salad with blue cheese and a citrus vinaigrette. Beets went from vegetatum non grata (probably not accurate Latin) to one of my favorites.
Fast forward to this week. I get a daily email from Il Corvo in Seattle that gives the rundown on the pastas (it’s what they do) on offer that day. It’s mouth-watering and torturous at the same time, since they’re only open for lunch Monday through Friday and it isn’t close by. Monday’s lacinato kale parsley pesto had basil and I had none, but it got me thinking about pesto alternatives, and about the four big fat beets I had in the fridge.
Since seeing the light, I’ve usually left beets to the pros, mainly because someone else gets to stain their fingers peeling those little buggers, but when the pickins are slim in the winter, you gotta do what you gotta do. Flip on the oven, scrub down those beets, wrap ‘em up in some parchment and foil and let ‘em bake at 400F for an hour. Pull on a pair of gloves and get to work. It is a little messy, but you’ll live. I just wouldn’t do it with kids around. And wear black.
The pesto itself is vegan, the parmesan (or blue cheese, if you like) is simply suggested as a pretty garnish. You could easily sprinkle it with additional ground almonds, if you like. One big beet will make enough to feed three or four, but if you’re going to go to the trouble, roast up a few beets and use the others for salad.
- ¾ lb. dried farfalle
- 1 medium to large beet, roasted, peeled and diced (~1 ½ c. diced)
- 1 clove garlic
- ½ c. whole raw almonds
- juice of 1 lemon
- ½ t. salt
- ¼ c. olive oil
- parmesan cheese to garnish
- In a food processor or blender, combine beets, garlic, almonds, lemon juice and salt. Pulse 8-10 times to get the mixture broken down, scraping down the sides to ensure even blending. With the machine running, stream the olive oil into the machine. Continue running the machine until it becomes a thick paste. It will be slightly chunky, but there shouldn’t be big, identifiable pieces of beet or almond in it.
- Boil the pasta according to package directions in very salty water. Combine the pesto and farfalle in a bowl and stir until the pasta is well-coated. Garnish with grated parmesan cheese (or blue cheese, if you prefer) and serve.