Recipe: Vegan Beet Pesto Pasta
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Heather Christo
May 2, 2016
(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

Beet pesto pasta is a signature recipe of mine that I have been making for many years. I tried beets for the first time as a child (fresh from the can!) only to take a rather lengthy hiatus while my taste buds recovered (or maybe matured). I had them again many years later when I was working at La Folie in San Francisco, post culinary school. I was basically told “eat the beets.” So I ate the beets.

I can still remember the varieties: purple, candy cane, and golden. They were fresh and beautiful and, to my great surprise, I absolutely loved them. Beets and I have been involved in a love affair ever since.

While I am mad for their texture and earthy flavor, I think my true enchantment comes from the vibrant fuschia color of the purple variety; it is absolutely intoxicating to me, so I make sure these gorgeous beets make their way into everything from salads to pizza to pasta — which brings us to this beet pesto pasta.

By puréeing roasted or boiled beets, you really get to take full advantage of the visual allure. It also gives you a great opportunity to enhance the flavor of the beets with add-ins like garlic and red wine vinegar. In this recipe, the almonds and olive oil bring a nice, smooth richness to the pesto, and then a sprinkling of kosher salt is all you need to bring depth. Next, you toss this luscious purée with pasta, and you won’t believe how this simple dish transforms into something spectacular.

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

I have always said that the magic of this dish is that it gets people who love beets excited about them all over again. For those who think they don’t like beets, the color is enough for them to give it a try, and chances are they will like it — I know because my sister is a loud and proud beet hater and she will even eat this pasta! Plus, you know having a 6- and 8-year-old gobbling it down is a sure sign of a winning dish. Of course, to my kids, it is known only as magical pink unicorn pasta, but that couldn’t have anything to do with it.

I love to garnish this beautiful dish with edible flowers — especially on Mother’s Day! It is just even prettier when sprinkled with chive blossoms, bachelor button petals, or little pansies. It will be the visual star of the table and your mother will be wowed. Feel free to serve with a large bowl of freshly shredded Pecorino, if desired.

This pasta can be made with gluten-free pasta or regular; kept vegan if you hold off on a sprinkle of Pecorino; and served warm, room temperature, or slightly chilled. It's meant to be flexible so you can do what works best for the people in your life.

Beet Pesto Pasta

Serves 6

1 pound regular or gluten-free spaghetti
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup raw slivered almonds
2 large cooked and peeled purple beets, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Kosher salt
Minced fresh chives, for garnish

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente.

Meanwhile, place the garlic and almonds in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and pulse until the almonds are a fine meal and the garlic is minced. Add the beets, olive oil, and vinegar and pulse until you have a smooth pesto-like sauce. Season to taste with kosher salt.

When the pasta is ready, toss with the pesto and season to taste with kosher salt. Serve hot. (If you want to serve the pasta at room temperature or chilled, rinse the pasta with cold water before tossing with the pesto.)

Reprinted with permission from Pure Delicious by Heather Christo, copyright (c) 2016 by arrangement with Pam Krauss Books and Avery Books, members of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company.

(Image credit: Heather Christo)

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