Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Spelt Pasta with Beetroot and Rosemary

Last night's suppertime was one of those when I was too late to get to the market and there were very few fresh things in the fridge. I love the dishes that emerge within these limitations as much as I love going to the market four or five times a week. But I know I'd do well to self-impose some tight limits now and then (in the kitchen and the studio). I'm always satisfied by the process and the result when I engage my resourcefulness toward realising something.

Beetroot's earthiness isn't to everyone's taste. Neither is the sugar quotient, which can make it difficult to marry with other ingredients. The acidity and umami in parmigiano reggiano, tomato and rosemary in combination with beet seemed worth a try. I'm really happy with the taste of this scarlet jewel and think it could be a standard fallback dish for me. I had a glass of Les Jamelles Syrah with it which was oddly perfect. I rarely eat pasta for how negatively my gut reacts, but a good-quality spelt (or buckwheat) pasta isn't so bothersome and will cook up as beautifully as semolina. You could also serve it with brown rice, millet or quinoa. And I think it would be perfect as a side dish with savoury beef and its roasted fat.

A Spelt Pasta with Beetroot and Rosemary

Put a deep pot of water to boil. Add a spill of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt.

Set a 9-inch cast iron pan on low heat and add a few tablespoons olive oil. Sprinke about a 1/2 teaspoon sea salt into the oil. Peel 5 plump garlic cloves, slice them thinly widthwise and add to the pan. Pull the leaves off 2 stems of fresh rosemary and roughly chop them to release their fragrance. Add to the pan and move everything around with a wooden spoon so it's nicely glazed by the oil.

Add 3 cups of spelt pasta to the boiling water. Stir with a wooden spoon, cover and lower the heat.

Trim the tops off 1 large red beet or 2-3 little ones. If the greens are good, wash and roughly chop them and set aside. Peel the outer skin off the beet using a vegetable peeler. Julienne the whole beet and add to the garlic and rosemary. Raise the heat to medium and cook, 2-3 minutes, stirring a few times. Then add a few glugs of dry red or white wine, a chopped tomato, a squish of tomato paste and -if you have them- the chopped beet greens. Cover. Cook 5-10 minutes, until the beets are bright and tender. Add a few twists of black pepper, adjust the salt and continue cooking, uncovered, while you get the cheese and pasta ready.

When the pasta is tender, drain it lightly (a little pasta water will help coax the sauce to the right consistency) and tip it into the pan with the beet sauce. Stir in 1/2 cup grated parmigiano and 1/8 cup whole milk, crème fraîche or almond milk (to make a kind of gorgeous beetroot "dauphinoise"). Serve with a handful of pitted queen olives on one side.

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