Until I moved to Tasmania, I'd only eaten tinned beetroot: cold, floppy, and tasting of vinegar; really only showing up in salads, hamburgers or sandwiches. I'm sure you too can conjure up childhood memories of white bread, soggy and stained that wonderful pinky-purple colour.
So when I tasted my first real beetroot - cooked and served hot with sour cream, earthy and iron-y tasting - it was a revelation. I saw it in a new light, as a beautiful, rich vegetable, not as a ... cold vinegary thing. Where had it been all my life?
Beetroot is now one of my favourite buys from the local farmers market. They come as small and perfectly clean orbs, the odd one sporting a little tail. They are obviously young and tender, as I have never once thought about removing the skins from them when they are cooked, as recipes often suggest. I am happy to simply cut them into wedges and roast them in a foil parcel, with butter, wine and garlic. My approach to most vegies is to treat them simply and enjoy their flavours honestly, and this works especially well with beetroots; roasting brings out their true character.
But this weekend I got more adventurous and made this pasta sauce. Not a tomato in sight, just the beetroot, producing the most glorious magenta colour and a surprisingly sweet flavour. I served it with a crumbling of walnuts, which a quick glance thru my 'River Cottage Veg Every Day' book confirmed have a wonderful afffinity with beetroot.
This pasta sauce seems magnificently decadent, I think because of the fabulous colour. It obliterates any memories one might have of vinegary tinned beetroot.
Roast beetroot pasta sauce
Adapted from the April 2013 Women's Health magazine. Made two substantial serves where the sauce is the star of the meal. Like a lot of sauce recipes, you don't really need precise quantities - once you've made it once or twice you'll freewheel with the ingredients and flavours; a bit of this here, a bit of that there - but this is how I made it the first time.
- Preheat your oven to 200.
- Take 400 gms beetroot. Top and tail if necessary, otherwise cut into small dice (a small size ensures a quicker cooking time).
- Line a brownie tin (or any cake tin with a lip to hold any leaks) with a big sheet of aluminium foil, then put the beetroot dice in there. Add three cloves of peeled garlic and a little water; just enough to form a small puddle.
- Wrap/fold the foil into a parcel so the beetroot is completely enclosed. Pop into the oven and bake until a knife slips easily into the beetroot; this will probably take at least 45 minutes.
- Once cooked, scoop out the beetroot and garlic and whizz it up in your food processor until it is as smooth as possible. To help this, add 1 tbspn of white wine.
- Now saute a finely chopped small red onion with olive oil over a medium heat until soft and translucent.
- Add the beetroot to the pan. Add 1 tbspn of white wine, then a small slosh of water to help loosen the sauce.
- Fold thru 2 or 3 tbspns natural yoghurt, again just enough to loosen the sauce to a smooth texture; it also brightens the colour.
- When you serve this on pasta, I recommend folding the cooked pasta thru the sauce while it is still in the pan and then dishing it up. Garnish with a more natural yoghurt if you wish, a generous handful of chopped bright green parsley (the colour contrast is wonderful), a good squeeze of lemon juice, a grinding of black pepper, and a crumbling of walnuts (fresh or toasted).