Beet Marinara Pasta Sauce with Mozzarella
March has definitely been beet season in my house. I made salads, beet risotto, drinks, and more recently, beet pasta sauce. Beets have a gorgeous, rich color; I experimented more by mixing marinara sauce with beets for a simple pasta dish. The acidity from the tomato sauce cuts the sweetness of the beets.
Tomatoes are not in season, so I cheated and used a store-bought jar of tomato sauce. I finished the dish with pieces of mozzarella for extra creaminess.
Yields: 6 servings1 (16-ounce) package mini penne
1-½ tablespoons salt
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 bouquet garni (see tips)
4 tablespoons olive oil (or any other vegetable oil)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 small beets
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (15-ounce) jar classic marinara sauce, store-bought
1 teaspoon white pepper, freshly ground
10 herb-marinated fresh mozarella balls, quartered
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
Cooking pasta: Bring about 8 quarts of water to a boil. Add the pasta, bring back to a boil, then immediately lower the heat to a gentle boil. Cook the pasta for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and continue cooking for an additional 5-8 minutes. Keep stirring every now and then so the pasta doesn't stick to the bottom. When the pasta is cooked (cooked inside and out but still in shape and firm), reserve about ¼ cup to ½ cup of pasta water and drain the pasta. Transfer to a large serving bowl. Keep warm.
Cooking the beets:
Scrub the beets under tap water. Remember to trim off a little piece from the end of the root. Reserve the beet leaves (if any) for another dish; they're edible. Peel and cut the beets into 1"-thick slices.
Place the beets in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. The level of water should go one third of the way up the beets. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for about 20-25 minutes until softened. A good way to check is to poke the beets with a paring knife. Check the liquid periodically and add more water if necessary. Strain the beets (if you're planning to drink the beet liquid, check the tip section). Allow to cool a little.
Caramelizing the onions: While the beets are cooking, heat the olive oil in a small sauté pan. Add the sliced onions. Separate and spread the onions. Add the bouquet garni. Lower the heat to simmer. Cook for about 45 minutes until the caramelized onions become almost like a compote. Season with salt and pepper. Keep stirring and let the onions cook for another 5-10 minutes. Deglaze with 3-4 tablespoons of pasta water. Allow to cool a little. Remove and discard the bouquet garni.
Making pasta sauce:
In a blender, combine the boiled beets, caramelized onions, Dijon mustard, tomato paste and marina sauce.
Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Immediately add pasta sauce to the warm pasta. Toss well until the color is uniform. Season with more salt and pepper if necessary.
When you're ready to serve, add the parsley and mozzarella.
When preparing beets, oil your hands before prepping the beets.
Little reminder on how to make a bouquet garni: The traditional bouquet garni is composed of a sprig of thyme, 2 bay leaves (torn in half), 1 small portion of leek (only the green part), a few curly parsley stems and a small stalk of celery. You can always tweak it by substituting some ingredients such as bruised lemongrass, basil, coriander or star anise. Gather all the ingredients in a square of cheesecloth and tie it with some twine. You can use it to flavor sauces and broths.
Don't discard the beet broth. Strain it and drink it. I know it's very sweet but go for it. I call it the detox diet drink due to the natural sweetness from the beets.Published By: on March 29, 2011.