While I was studying in culinary school, each week had a different theme. For example, pork, beef, poultry, etc. When the vegetable theme came around, things got a little interesting. You see, vegetarians have it hard in chef school, since 95% of dishes are meat-based, and we spend a lot of time learning about different cuts of meat.
Once or twice a week, we had a free day in the kitchen where we got to cook whatever we wanted inside that theme. Now I don't have a lot of experience with vegetarian food, but I had hoped we would have the opportunity to gain more knowledge and inspiration, and this was the perfect opportunity for me to experiment.
What did I pick to work with? Beets. I've never been a huge fan of beets, and I really only have experience with the pickled variety, which I hate (they taste like dirt to me). I was determined to turn this work day into a learning experience!
The finished product was was a beetroot linguine with honey walnuts, gremolata and parmesan cheese, pictured below.
I knew I was onto something, and I just had to get it right!
This next evolution of the beet pasta ups the ante with the addition of goat's cheese. I know, I know, everyone and anyone has done the goat's cheese and beetroot combination, but they're a classic combination that just pair so well together. The gamy, tart and slightly earthy flavour of the cheese pairs with the sweet earthiness of the beets. Pair that with the sweet and bitter walnuts, and it's a winning combo. Unfortunately, I forgot all about the honeyed walnuts in the above version, and the overall dish suffered for it. I NEEDED the walnuts to be in this pasta for it to taste complete.
And here we have the finished product. Beetroot linguine with salt roasted beetroot, honeyed walnuts and goat's cheese topped with gremolata.
What you'll need for the pasta
Pasta can be made many different ways, but for this pasta, I used the classic 1 egg to 100 g flour ratio and added beetroot puree for colour and flavour together with a couple pinches of salt.
You may want to buy some latex gloves to handle beets, else your fingers turn quite red.
To make the beetroot puree, peel and roughly chop the beetroot and add to a pot with just enough water to cover. Gently boil until tender (approximately a half hour). Strain beets but reserve liquids. Add beets to a food processor or blender with olive oil and blend until smooth. Add some of the reserved liquids to thin. Strain puree. It should have the consistency of runny applesauce. Set aside.
To make the pasta, add flour to a large bowl. I use tipo 00 flour, which is a finely-ground flour with a high gluten content. That means that it makes a smoother pasta with a better stretch when working with it. Make a well in the middle of the flour, and add eggs, and 2 tablespoons of puree.
What you need for the sauce:
How to make the sauce
Wash the remaining beets and dry well. Clip off the ends, and cut them in the half, leaving the skin on. Pour a generous layer of coarse salt into the bottom of an oven-safe dish and arrange your beets on the salt. Take a whole head of garlic, slice the top off to expose the tops of the garlic bulbs. Drizzle with olive oil and a tiny bit of salt. Set the garlic in with the beets. Bake on 190C for about an hour.
Peel skin from the beets and cut into cubes. Add 2 tbsp oil to a pan and sweat diced onion until soft and translucent. The baked garlic should be soft enough to squeeze the cloves out of their casings. Take 3-4 cloves and mash them up with the back of a spoon or knife. Add them to the onion and cook for a minute. Add beet cubes and thyme and warm through. Add 100 ml oil, 2 tbsp beet puree, vinegar and lemon juice. Cook 5 minutes and season to taste.
Note: This recipe calls for a lot of olive oil. You can add more or less. Fresh pasta absorbs a lot of liquid, and the oil is there to keep it from becoming too dry. You can also add more beet puree to taste.
Once your pasta has rested in the fridge, sprinkle a few tablespoons of flour on your work surface and dust your unwrapped dough. Cut the dough in half and cover the other with plastic and set aside. Press into a rough rectangle shape around ½ cm thick and set your pasta roller to maximum thickness. Don't have a pasta roller? I'll get to you in a second. Roll the pasta through once, being sure to keep it well floured. Fold the sheet in half, and run through the max thickness once more. Gradually set the thicknesses lower as you roll it through each time. The pasta should be a thickness somewhere between thinnest, and medium (a couple mm). You can either use a linguine cutter, or cut the noodles by hand. Using a cutter, roll the pasta through, and hang the noodles on a pasta arm or over a cutting board (like I did). To cut them by hand, flour the dough sheet well, gently fold in half, then half again. With a floured knife, slice the noodles in ½ cm thicknesses, untangle and hang them.
I used a very inexpensive Jaime Oliver pasta machine and noodle cutter, which crapped out after my first batch, so I gave up and cut them by hand. If you don't have a machine, you can cut your pasta into smaller portions and roll them out on a well-floured surface with a rolling pin.
To cook, bring a pot of water with a tablespoon of salt and 2 tablespoons olive oil up to a boil. Add pasta and cook 1-2 minutes until al dente, or cooked with a slight bite, and not mushy. Once cooked, fresh pasta sticks together very easily, so add immediately to sauce.
Topping this pasta is honeyed walnuts, gremolata and goat's cheese. You will need:
Once your pasta is cooked, toss with warm sauce to coat well. Wrap noodles around a meat fork and gently place onto plates. Spoon sauce and beet cubes over the top, together with a drizzle of olive oil for sheen, of the pasta is too dry. Sprinkle walnuts around pasta, and top with a teaspoon of gremolata piled on top. Cut rind off goat's cheese, and break into small chunks. Place on pasta. Serve alone or with crusty bread and butter. Enjoy!
Voila!! A homemade beet pasta with goat's cheese and honeyed walnuts. A lacto vegetarian meal that's much more filling than it appears and packed with delicious and complex beet flavour. If you're short on time, you can use premade fresh pasta from the supermarket, but it will lack a bit of colour and flavour, which you can make up for with a bit more puree in the sauce.
Hey there! My name is Lea, and I'm a Canadian Culinary student trying to survive chef life in Denmark. I want to share my journey, and some great food and experiences with others. I believe that anyone can be quite chefy!