‘Wow’ was what I said when I first sampled this beetroot spelt pasta with its toasted walnuts, melting blue cheese and burnt butter sauce with crispy sage leaves. After which I proceeded to scoff an extra-large plateful of it in one sitting. My brother concurred. “I’d pay for that,” he said.
It’s a simple dish, but its flavours and textures are the heroes. The earthy sweet beetroot partners with salty blue cheese extraordinarily well, while the slippery ribbons of pasta play against the crunchy walnuts and crisp sage leaves. And the butter… well, as Julia Childs famously said “With enough butter, anything is good.” And I’d have to agree.
I had been wanting to try a beetroot based pasta for ages and found a great recipe at Botanical Kitchen, which I adapted so that I could use spelt flour (my flour of choice these days). When using spelt flour, which is more absorbent than standard wheat flour, you need to either increase the dry ingredients or reduce the wet ingredients by about 10%. I did the latter. If you prefer to use standard flour, simply increase the beets content to 300g (10.6 oz). Of course, it all depends on how juicy your beets are so you’ll need to go by the feel of the dough as you’re working it – aim for slightly tacky, but not so wet that it sticks to your hands.
Once I had the pasta sorted, I played around with some ideas for dressing it and decided upon the classic pairing of walnuts and blue cheese. And, to add moisture, I went with a burnt butter sauce with sage leaves (which were growing in abundance in the garden) – a sauce I’ve used before and which never fails to hit the spot. Oh, and by the way, I did actually try this recipe using raw beetroot as well. It’s flavour is much more subtle than when roasted beetroot is used, as well as lighter pink in colour, but still very nice. Enjoy!
- 2-3 beetroots – approx. 270g (9.5 oz)
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 350g (12.3 oz) white spelt flour*
- 1 heaped teaspoon salt
- 200g (7 oz) salted butter
- 1/3 cup fresh sage leaves
- 2/3 cup walnut halves, lightly toasted
- 100g (3.5 oz) blue cheese (I used creamy variety)
- Preheat the oven to 200C (400F).
- Slice off the leaves of the beets, leaving enough stem to grip on to. Give them a scrub under the tap to get rid of any dirt (you don't need to dry them). Place them together (if they are small) in a piece of silver foil, or individually wrap them if they're large. Place them in a roasting pan and bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes, or until tender (check by inserting a sharp knife into the flesh). Take them out of the oven, open up the foil and let them cool. Once cool enough to handle, take a paper towel and rub the skin off (you may want to wear gloves to avoid getting stained!).
- Cut the beets into chunks and place into a food processor or blender and process until the mixture is smooth. Add the eggs and yolk and process again until combined.
- Pour the mixture into a large bowl and sift in the spelt flour and salt, stirring with a wooden spoon until combined. Transfer the dough to the bench top and knead it gently just until smooth and pliable.** Depending on how wet the mixture is, you may need to add more flour. When working with spelt, you're looking for a tacky consistency, but not so moist that it sticks to your fingers.
- Shape the dough into a ball, flatten it a little so it forms a disc, wrap it lightly in plastic wrap and then put in the fridge to rest for at least 15 minutes.
- When ready to make into pasta, divide the dough into 8 pieces.*** You'll be working with one piece at a time, so cover the remaining pieces either with a damp tea towel, or in plastic wrap.
- Take one piece and flatten it using the palm of your hand.
- Run this through the pasta roller at its widest setting.
- Place the dough horizontally on your work surface, and fold the long ends into the center, so that they meet. Press down on the edges to seal them. At this stage, you should have a roughly rectangular shape.
- Run the dough through the pasta roller, open-side first, again at the widest setting.
- Repeat the sequence – putting the pasta through the widest setting, then folding the ends and running through again.
- Now run the dough through the roller two more times, again on the widest setting, without folding first. This will help to make the dough very smooth and elastic, for stretching.
- Now stretch the dough by running through the rollers, each time switching to a narrower setting. After the final setting, you should be able to see the outline of your hand through the dough.
- Run the stretched dough through the fettuccine cutters. Gently lay or hang your freshly cut pasta, and cover with a clean cloth so that it doesn’t dry out while you roll and cut the rest of your dough.
- Repeat the whole process for the remaining dough.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. NB: While you're waiting for it to boil, make the sauce (see instructions below).
- Once the water has boiled, gently drop in the freshly cut pasta, and cook for about 5 minutes or until just tender.
- Drain the pasta, then drop immediately into the butter sauce using tongs, give it a toss so that the pasta is doused in the sauce. Place the pasta on serving plates, add the crumbled blue cheese, then serve immediately.
- Set a large fry-pan on the stove and melt the butter over a medium heat. Add the sage leaves and stir through until the sage leaves are crisp and the butter is golden-brown in colour. Add in the walnuts, stir to coat them, then take the pan off the heat and add the drained cooked pasta.
**You don't need to knead spelt flour as much as standard flour, as the gluten strand is much more fragile. Just knead until smooth and pliable.
***You can freeze the pasta dough in pieces (wrap in plastic wrap), then take out as many pieces as you need and defrost.
Food Photography Info: Canon 550D (EOS Rebel T2i); Sigma 30mm 1.4 DC ‘Art’ lens / Natural lighting