Thursday, August 2, 2012

Farro Pasta with Roasted Beets, Beet Greens and Pine Nuts

We got the idea for this pasta as a combination of two recipes that I found on Epicurious - Farfalle with Golden Beets, Beet Greens and Pine Nuts and Farro Spaghetti, Beets, Brown Butter, Poppy Seeds.   I wanted to make an easy vegetarian dish that would take advantage of the beet greens on the cute little beets that I picked up at the farmers' market today.  Usually the greens on beets from the super market look a little pathetic.  But these were bright green and lovely.  I had another beet recipe for Maple Horseradish Glazed Beets that I really wanted to make, but we ended up going for this one because the other one didn't use the greens.

The thing I liked most about the recipe was that all of the ingredients had a purpose.  Every element was a crucial component - nothing felt gratuitous.  As we were eating I mentioned to Alex that toasted pine nuts often feel gratuitous to me, but in this dish the texture and buttery, rich flavor they added were just what the dish needed to elevate itself.  The sweetness of the carameliontrzed onions and the roasted beets contrasts nicely with the salty, nutty cheese and the slightly nutty farro spaghetti.  The beet greens lend a little volume (plus some vitamins) and have a very mild flavor similar to Swiss chard.  I thought they might be a bit more bitter, but I'm glad that they weren't.  Another plus with this recipe is how easy it is to prepare.  It is a little time-intensive since you have to roast the beets and caramelize the onions and both of those things always take forever, but it doesn't require a ton of effort or ingredients to produce.  And if you use red beets, the pasta ends up looking all beautifully pink and delicious.  In my opinion that's another reason to make the dish.

Recipe after the jump!

Farro Pasta with Roasted Beets, Beet Greens and Pine Nuts

2 bunches small to medium red beets with beet greens greens cut into 1-inch-wide strips
1/4 cup pine nuts
4 tbsp evoo, divided
2 medium sweet onions, quartered lengthwise through root end and thinly sliced crosswise
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 lb farro spaghetti
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus additional for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Drizzle beets with evoo and season with s&p.  Wrap beets in foil and roast until tender, about 40-50 minutes. When cool enough to handle, rub beets with a clean paper towel and the skins should slip off easily. Once the beets have been peeled, cut into sixths.  Set aside.

Heat heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add pine nuts and stir until lightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Transfer to small bowl. Add 2 tablespoons oil and onions to same skillet and saute until beginning to soften and turn golden, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to saute until onions are tender and browned, about 25 minutes longer. Add 1 tbsp evoo and then add garlic. Saute onions and garlic for 2 minutes. Scatter beet greens over onion mixture. Drizzle remaining 1 tablespoons evoo over; cover and cook until beet greens are tender, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot. 

Add onion mixture and beets into pasta. Add pasta cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls to moisten. Season with salt and coarsely ground black pepper. Stir in 1/4 cup cheese. Divide pasta among shallow bowls. Sprinkle with pine nuts.

Serve with additional cheese.

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