I was somewhat ambivalent about beets in my youth. They didn't show up often at the family dinner table, and on the rare occasion that they did, they were typically the pickled-in-a-jar variety. Then I went to Mongolia. You see, Mongolia doesn't have a lot going on in the vegetable department. Bitter, long, arid winters don't make for great growing conditions, so the diet there is mostly based on flour, meat, and potatoes. The vegetables that were available in the regional center where I lived included onions, carrots, rutabagas and - you guessed it - beets. So I learned to appreciate beets and included them in just about everything I cooked.
Now, I LOVE beets in a ridiculous way, particularly when they are roasted long and slow. This divine recipe comes from my dear friend Maggie who writes at Kitchie Coo and, oh boy, is it ever good! Knowing my love for beets, she prepared this for us when we visited her family last summer, and I have been meaning to make it again ever since. It was the perfect dish for our family Christmas Eve celebration, particularly given its festive ruby red coloring set against our green stoneware. If you have the foresight to roast the beets in advance, it is also a very quick recipe to throw together. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
Fettucine with Roasted Beet Sauce
adapted from epicurious.com
1 pound beets, cleaned
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water
1 pound fettucine (we used fresh, but dried would work - adjust timing accordingly)
6 tbsp butter
1 heaping tablespoon poppy seeds
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup pasta water
1/4 pound goat's milk cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the beets in a glass or ceramic baking dish. Cover with the olive oil and water. Bake until soft, about 1 1/4 hours. Let cool.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
3. Peel the beets and cut into chunks. Add to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process to a rough puree. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the package directions.
4. Add butter to a 10-inch skillet. Turn the heat to high. Brown the butter, about 2 minutes. Add the poppy seeds and toast for 2 minutes. Add the pureed beets, salt, and 1/4 cup pasta water to the skillet. Stir well.
5. Drain the pasta and add it to the skillet with the sauce. Stir to combine.
6. Divide among plates and sprinkle each serving with goat cheese. Serve immediately.