For a few weeks at the end of the summer, we eat beets in funky ways. My favorite is to grill them- they are so much tastier when they are grilled! This year I wanted to try roasting beets to make a pasta sauce. Sounds weird? It was delicious! It took a lot of pots and pans and skillets to make, but I’d do it again! The flavor was out of this world!
I peeled and diced the beets before I reread the recipe where the blogger said she didn’t peel the beets. Oops. Next time. I was surprised that I had a second bag of beets in my fridge as well as this bunch. They were either left behind by daughter Emily who visited a couple of weeks ago or hubby forgot to tell me he hit up the Farmer’s Market again. There was a golden beet and two different striped beets. I tossed them with some oil, salt and pepper and roasted them as well.
The “designer” beets were roasted in 20 minutes. I have no explanation for that, I simply scooped them into a container and refrigerated them for a cold salad later. I let the dark red beets roast for an hour, total, testing them every 10 minutes. I had them at 400°F but have since learned 425° roasts them just as well, faster.
I’d laid fresh sprigs of thyme from my garden over all of the diced beets before I placed them in the oven, per recipe directions. I’m not sure I think they were seasoning much, just laying on top, but they definitely made the kitchen smell fabulous as they roasted!
When the beets were fork tender I removed them from the oven and let them cool. I put them into the food processor with the remaining olive oil, garlic, balsamic vinegar, vermouth, half of the parmesan and a little salt.
I pulsed the food processor until the mixture was mostly smooth. It won’t be silky smooth, but it comes close.
The beet mixture went into a large skillet, along with the chicken stock and half and half. I added a salt and pepper. I’d add more salt later, to taste.
I let the sauce come to a bubbling boil, then reduced the heat to medium low and let it simmer while my pasta cooked to al dente. I stirred the remaining cheese and the sugar into the beet sauce, then taste tested and added more salt. I thought the sauce was a bit thick and dry, so I added another 1/2 cup of half and half.
I toasted the poppy seeds for a couple of minutes in a small skillet and stirred them into the sauce, reserving a few pinches for garnish.
When the pasta was cooked I drained it, reserving 2 cups of pasta water in case the dish became too dry. I added the pasta to the skillet and tossed to coat with the sauce and cooked it for several minutes to heat through. I added small amounts of pasta water as the pasta soaked up the sauce and it became a bit dry.
I served the pasta sprinkled with more parmesan and some sliced chicken. We couldn’t believe how tasty this dish was! You’d never imagine the flavors, you must try them! The balsamic vinegar and vermouth, combined with the parmesan mellowed the earthy flavor of the beets. It was a heavenly marriage of some very different ingredients.
We were so thrilled we discussed collecting more beets, roasting them and freezing them so we can have this again during the long winter up North. Off to the farmer’s market we go!
Bowties in Roasted Beet Sauce
3 medium-sized beets, diced (I peeled them, the original recipe left the peelings on)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
several sprig of thyme; use leaves and discard stem after roasting
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons vermouth
1/2 cup parmesan; grated plus more for garnish
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup cream or milk (I used half and half and added another 1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon sugar
8 ounces penne or pasta of choice (I used bowties)
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon poppy seeds (reserve a little for garnish)
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Clean and dice the beets and toss with a tablespoon of the olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and roast for 40-50 minutes, or until fork tender. Check and adjust roasting time accordingly. Remove from oven.
Place beets in a food processor. Add the garlic, balsamic vinegar, vermouth, half of the cheese and the olive oil. Pulse until fairly smooth.
Place beet mixture into a skillet. Add the stock and cream and bring to a bubble over medium heat. Add the sugar and remaining cheese. Reduce heat to medium-low and prepare pasta al dente according to box directions.
Toast the poppy seeds in a small skillet until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add to poppy seeds to sauce and taste test for seasoning, adding salt and pepper if desired.
Drain pasta, reserving 2 cups of pasta water. Add pasta to skillet and toss to combine. Heat together for several minutes, adding pasta water if it becomes too dry.
Serve pasta garnished with a sprinkling of parmesan.
2 large servings
Adapted from Bev Cooks