Creamy Beet Pasta

Sometime last month, my husband and I looked at each other and said, “Where did summer go?”

All of a sudden, it was cold and blustery, chilly throughout the day, and seemingly suddenly dark when waking up in the morning with the sun setting much sooner than we swore it had just the week before.  On top of that, our garden withered away quickly since I had forgotten about the freezing overnight temperatures that started occurring out of the blue.  The basil, the tomatoes, the lettuce–all browned to death and crispy in a flash.

Except for the beets.  They were completely unaffected by the frost.

IMG_1727I’m a converted beet-hater.  Like many other beet-haters out there, I thought they just tasted like dirt, at least the canned ones sure did which had been my only exposure to them up until recently.  Last summer, one of our staff gave us a couple of beets she had grown in her garden.  Not knowing what to do with them, I looked up how to roast them on the internet and–voila!–finally realized what I had been missing out on.  They were sweet, reminiscent of fresh corn on the cob!

Hence for our garden this year, we planted a sizable patch of beets and they proliferated nicely.  So nicely that now I have an abundance and don’t know what to do with all of them.

IMG_1723Naturally, I turned to the internet and was inspired by this recipe to use more than a beet at a time.

IMG_1724

Creamy Beet Pasta

Serves 6 hungry souls as a main course, likely up to 8 people with smaller portions

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2-3 honking softball-sized beets (or the guesstimated equivalent), cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Olive oil, as needed
  • 2 large kale leaves (optional)
  • 1/2 c raw cashews blended with water to make cashew cream
  • Lemon juice (optional)
  • 1 lb (approximately 500 g) of dried pasta

DIRECTIONS:

Start boiling the water for the pasta and cook according to directions.  You can continue making the cashew cream and the beet sauce while waiting.  When done, drain the pasta and keep covered until ready to be mixed with the beet sauce.

Make your cashew cream.   Place the raw cashews in a blender with enough water to cover the nuts, add a dash of salt and a small splash of lemon juice (optional).  Blend until completely smooth.  Add water as needed so it is less of a thick sludge and more like a creamy white sauce.  Set aside for later.

Place beet cubes, kale (optional), and garlic into a food processor, along with a little salt and pepper to taste (you’ll add more later) and a splash of olive oil.  Pulse until the beets are finely chopped.  Saute the beet mixture for about 5 minutes on medium-high heat with water as needed to make sure it doesn’t dry out.  (Or you can use oil instead for sauteeing if you don’t mind that route.)  Turn the heat to low and add the cashew cream, stirring until blended.  Add more salt and pepper to taste if needed.

Pour the sauce into a large plastic-free bowl (wouldn’t want to stain a bowl beet-pink, right?), add the pasta a bit at a time and mix until it looks like there’s a proper ratio of sauce to pasta.

Serve and enjoy.

Recipe notes:

  • Making cashew cream is easy if you have a high speed blender (i.e. Vitamix, Blendtec).  If not, soaking the cashews overnight in water and using a food processor will work just as well but will take more time to blend.
  • I’ve read multiple times that the true flavor of garlic comes out when it has been smashed (and I don’t mean into a pulp).  Something about the enzymes starting a reaction that produces the ideal flavor, blah blah.  If you don’t want to smash them, don’t worry about it; if you do, don’t waste too much time on it.  I usually pull out a flat-ended drinking glass and pound the cloves once or twice.  Done.
  • I had a bunch of kale lying around so I decided to throw a couple of large leaves into the food processor.  It didn’t affect the taste at all and I was able to have more power-packed veggies in the sauce!
  • I ended up mixing the whole batch of cooked pasta with the sauce–the ratio looked good to me.  If you think you have less sauce, I would mix it as I did above: have the sauce in a bowl and add the pasta to it a little at a time until it looks right.  If you think you have less pasta, I’d switch it around.  It’s okay to have extra sauce or extra pasta because it can always be used for something else, but somehow it’s annoying (to me) if the pasta has too much or not enough sauce.
  • My husband was feeling lacto-vegetarian for his second bowl and mixed in some parmesan cheese.  In his opinion, it was still good with the addition but it didn’t really enhance the overall flavor.
  • The recipe I was inspired by used both broth and wine in the sauce.  I would’ve used both–if I had remembered!  As it is, I didn’t and the hubs and I were still satisfied with the flavor: fresh, light, and filling.

IMG_1726Being October, someone mentioned that this would be a great halloween dish.  I suppose it could be if that’s what you’re going for!  But that wasn’t my point: I wanted to use up some of our beets in a delicious and compacted manner.  In my opinion, the more vegetables I can eat in one serving, the better.

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