In an effort to liven up my palate from the creamy dishes that are popular this time of year, I wanted to leverage some of the delicious local, in-season lemons. This weekend, I stumbled upon Louisa Shafia’s Lemony Gold Beet Barley Risotto in 2009’s Lucid Food (a visually stunning cookbook full of seasonal recipes) and saw that I could easily incorporate parts of this dish with one of my standby pasta recipes. It made for an enlivening and comforting dinner with both new and familiar elements – an instant fan favorite at our house.
Make this little pot o’ gold whenever you need some vivid colors and jolts of citrus to brighten up February, the month in which we are made to believe winter will never give way to spring.
Lemony Gold beets + Creamy Goat Cheese pasta w. crushed red peppers
Serves 4 average adult humans (or 2 hungry hippos)
2-4 Gold beets, washed and greens trimmed off
Zest of 1 lemon + 1 TSP fresh squeezed juice
6 TBSP olive oil
1 pound penne rigate
S + P, to taste
4 oz. soft goat cheese
Crushed red peppers (or cayenne pepper), to taste
Parmigiano Reggiano, shaved
Rinse the beets and place them in a large pot. Cover them with water and bring to a high simmer over medium-high heat. Cook until the beets are easily penetrated with a fork (this can take anywhere from 20 – 60 minutes).
As the beets cook, zest and juice the lemon, setting aside the zest and 1 TSP of the juice for the meal. I used the rest of the juice for our water glasses, but that’s because I am actually just a walking lemon head pretending to be an adult human.
Once the beets are cooked through, place them in a bowl of cool water and slip off the skins using your hands or the edge of a spoon. Coarsely chop the beets, and set aside in a small to medium mixing bowl.
Bring another pot of water to boil for the pasta. Just cook to the directions on the box or until the noodles are al dente.
As the pasta cooks, mash the chopped beets until they are chunky and just rougher than the texture of apple sauce. Add in the zest, lemon juice, olive oil, S + P to taste. Stir thoroughly and set aside.
Drain the pasta, reserving about a half an inch of the water (or about a 1/2 cup) and return the pasta and water to the pot. Mix in the goat cheese, stirring as it melts into a cream sauce. Add in the beet mixture, tossing gently.
Serve the pasta warm with small shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano and sprinkle with red pepper to taste.
Note: Mix in sautéed garlic, onion and some greens to make this dish a little more toothsome
I’ll end with the small confession that I basically try to put lemons, goat cheese or crushed red pepper on everything. Everything. All of the things. And it is delicious.