I may have insulted one of the growers from the farmer’s market once. She was explaining how she has an heirloom variety of beets and how they had tasted different than regular beets, although she wasn’t able to fully articulate how. Apparently I wasn’t able either when I asked if the difference was this variety tasting any less like earth. She was notably speechless. I didn’t choose to buy the beets and she didn’t pursue it. Yet somehow, either by guilt or curiosity, I’ve ended up, a few weeks later, with a bunch of fresh beets in my crisper.
With this surplus of beets and an urge to make pasta, I set forth to make one of the prettiest pastas most people get a chance to see. Beet pasta is an unmistakable, vibrant pink which even for those who aren’t crazy for beets, and I know you’re out there, must be tempted to try. The beets tend to lend more colour than flavour to the pasta, but that’s alright, that’s what all those layers of the lasagna are for.
I wanted to keep this Presto Pasta dish to the point and make it quickly. Surprisingly the preparation didn’t take all that long at all. Using a food processor everything, except the dishes, was a breeze.
The recipe’s got it’s layers, but it really did only take about 30 minutes to prepare.
FRESH BEET PASTA
1 Red Beet, Medium Peeled
1/3 Cup Hot Water
3/4 Cup Unbleached, All Purpose Flour
1/4 Cup Semolina Flour
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Salt
Peel and roast or boil the beet. Add it to a blender or a food processor along with the hot water.
Purée the beet an strain, reserving the hot liquid.
To the bowl of a food processor, add the flours and the salt.
With the feeder tube open and the motor running, add the oil and the hot water.
Stop the food processor when the dough comes together to form a ball.
If the dough doesn’t come into a ball quickly, you may need to add very small amounts of water, 1/2 teaspoon, at a time until it does.
Remove the ball of dough. It should be moist and pliable but not sticky. Cut it into quarters and cover.
Using a pasta maker or a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface, roll each quarter as thinly as possible.
Trim into long workable strips or leave whole.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil and drop the pasta sheets in for about 1 -2 minutes. Drain and lay flat until ready to use.
1 Package Firm Tofu
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon thyme, dried
1/2 teaspoon Onion Powder
1 Tablespoon Nutritional Yeast Flakes, optional
2 Cloves Garlic or 1 teaspoon, minced
Small Sprig of Oregano (about 8-10 leaves), finely chopped
4 – 5 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
A good grinding of black pepper
Place the tofu into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to mash the tofu until it is small and evenly crumbled. To it, add the nutritional yeast, garlic, oregano salt and pepper.
Drizzle over the olive oil making the mixture come and hold together when held or pressed with a fork.
Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
2 Tablespoons Margarine
3 Tablespoons Unbleached All Purpose Flour
2 Cups Soy Milk
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
Pinch of nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon Fresh Black Pepper
In a large saucepan, melt the margarine on a medium heat. Add the flour, stirring well to incorporate and cook.
Once slightly paste like and golden, remove from the heat and whisk in the soy milk.
Return and reduce heat to low. Add the salt, pepper and garlic, stirring occasionally to incorporate and thicken the sauce.
Adjust seasoning as necessary and remove from the heat. Set aside.
SAUTÉED SPINACH AND BEET GREENS
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 White Onion, finely diced
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Bunch Beet Greens
4 Cups Baby Spinach leaves, packed
Salt and pepper to taste
Wash and trim only the brightest and crispest stems from your bunch of beets; chop into 1/2″ lengths.
Heat the oil over a medium high heat in a large sautée pan.
Add the onion and garlic, cook until soft and transparent.
Add the trimmed beet greens, cooking until tender, about 3 – 5 minutes.
Rinse and add the spinach leave; tossing occasionally until bright and wilted.
Remove from heat and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Spoon a thin coating of the béchamel over the bottom of a shallow baking dish.
Add one layer of the pasta and top with an even layer of the tofu ricotta.
Add another layer of the pasta, topping it with another thin layer of the béchamel, followed by the spinach and beet greens mixture.
Cover everything with a thin layer of the remaining pasta and top with what is left of the béchamel.
Thinly sprinkle over nutritional yeast flakes, if desired and bake for about 30 minutes or until the top has evenly browned.