There are not many things on this planet that are better than fresh, home-made pasta. Despite this, so many people are intimidated by making pasta at home and I, admittedly, used to be one of them. The stories you hear of Italian grandmothers with big guns (muscles, I mean) from years of laborious effort kneading pasta dough.
Why would any modern day city dweller bother to knead, roll and cut their own fresh pasta when you can buy it, cook it and have it on the table in less than 30 minutes? Because making it yourself affords you limitless creativity, and this fresh beet pasta is a prime example.
I first tried my hand at making fresh pasta during the first year that I lived in Barcelona when my then-not-yet husband gifted me a pasta maker for Christmas. We gave it a try and it turns out that making fresh pasta is not so difficult after all. You’re probably saying “sure, not so difficult if you have a pasta maker”.
Very true, but rolling it out and cutting it by hand doesn’t take that much longer than using a pasta machine and you have the flexibility to make any kind of pasta you want. Want green? Add spinach. Want vibrant yellow? Add saffron or turmeric. Want red? Add beets!
Right about now you might be thinking “beets, eww”. Firstly, beets when they’re fresh are good! You might (like me) have bad memories of being fed canned, syrupy beets as a child. Fresh beets are a whole other kettle of fish and I love them in this beet and sweet potato tartare. Secondly, this beet pasta doesn’t have an overwhelming taste of beets. There is a slight hint of beets, but the taste of the final dish will depend more on what kind of sauce you use.
If you’ve gone to all the effort to make beautiful red fresh beet pasta, then you don’t want to hide it under a tomato sauce. I suggest a simple white wine reduction sauce to allow the colour of the beets to shine through. Although it’s not necessary, if you have some beet puree left over and you want to use it, you can add it to the sauce for an even more sweet, beet-y flavour. In that case I recommend adding a teaspoon or two of balsamic vinegar to cut through the sweetness a bit.
Serves two. Double the recipe to serve four.
- 1 medium-sized beet
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 3/4 cups semolina flour (you can use all-purpose flour, but the pasta will be softer and less al dente after cooking. An option is to let the pasta dry for a couple hours so that it cooks more al dente)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 shallot, diced
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1/2 tablespoon flour
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 cup vegetable stock
- 1/4 teaspoon herb of choice (tarragon, rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, etc. Whatever you like)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Leftover beet puree (optional)
- 1 – 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar (optional)
- Fresh basil or chives, to serve (optional)
- Cook the beet however you would like. I roasted it whole drizzled with olive oil and wrapped in foil at 200°C (400°F) for about 45 minutes then peeled it. You can also peel it, cut it into quarters, cover with water and boil until soft. Once cooked, puree it in a food processor or blender with one tablespoon olive oil.
- Mix the flour and salt together on the counter. Make a well in the centre and add the olive oil and 3 tablespoons of the beet puree. Add a bit of water and use a fork to begin mixing in the flour little by little. Continue adding water and mixing it with the flour until the dough starts to come together and you can begin kneading it together with your hands. You may end up adding more or less water depending on the brand of flour that you use. You want a soft dough that holds together but isn’t sticky. Knead the dough for 10 – 15 minutes then wrap it in plastic film and let it rest for an hour.
- Cut the dough into 4 portions and roll it out. If you have a pasta machine, then you probably already know how to use it. If not, then roll the dough out on a floured counter using a rolling pin as thin as you can possibly get it. Use a knife or pizza cutter to cut it into the shape you want.
- At this point you can either hang your pasta to dry or put a pot of water on to heat while you prepare your sauce.
- Heat a large pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and shallots and fry until soft. Add the garlic and continue frying until soft and fragrant. Add the white wine and simmer until reduced by half. Add the flour and whisk through to remove all lumps. Allow to cook for about a minute then mix in the olive oil. Add the vegetable stock, herb of choice, salt and pepper. If you choose to add any leftover beet puree, add it now along with some balsamic vinegar to cut the sweetness. With or without the beet puree, simmer the sauce until it is reduced to the consistency you want.
- Boil the pasta in salted water for just 2 or 3 minutes. Fresh pasta cooks quickly, test it for doneness frequently. Drain and add directly to the sauce. Serve with fresh basil or chives, if desired.