You know that lovely pink-coloured pasta you see in fancy grocery stores with really fancy sounding Italian name brands? They sometimes costs more than you’d like to pay for noodles and well, I’m happy to say that it’s actually something that is quite achievable at home. I had a mid-sized, organic red beet sitting in my pantry since my previous grocery shopping spree and it needed to be used because it’s actually taking up too much space! I wasn’t really in the mood for roasting it, much less eating it in a salad but I did like the idea of pureeing it into a smooth paste and converting it into tagliatelle.
This post is a recipe on how to make pink tagliatelle with beets and you can easily use this recipe to create other pasta shapes as well. But the general rule is that the thicker the pasta strands, the heavier your sauce should be. So meat sauces like vegetarian ragu would go really well with tagliatelle. And I make a mean ragu, you won’t even miss the meat! Yes, I said it, meatless ragu. And let’s see how long this post gets. Maybe I should honour my ragu with a post of its own. Let’s see.
Before you start:
Remember to cook your beets, it takes 45 minutes | You will need extra flour handy | Beets stain, so be careful | It will take some kneading to make the dough smooth, so use your bread machine or a food processor if you’d like | Make sure you cook your pasta in boiling, salted water | If you let your pasta dry out a little, it retains its vibrant colour better
To make beet tagliatelle, you need to cook your beetroot first. There are many ways to cook it but I steamed mine for 45 minutes. Alternatively, you can also boil it until a knife sticks in easily. Peel while it’s still very warm and the skin should fall off like a glove. So let’s begin, assuming the beet’s already been cooked through:
- 400g of flour, pre-sifted, twice please
- 1 medium sized beet, pureed into 4 oz or 1/2 cup’s worth
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- extra flour for dusting
- fine semolina flour for dusting post-cutting
That is all there is to it to making pasta. The ratio you are looking for egg to pasta is 1 large egg to 100 grams of flour. Semolina flour is really helpful, in my opinion, in helping the pasta dry out and prevent it from sticking together. So use it, if you can. You will have a lot of semolina flour if you buy a bag but it’s a great excuse to make semolina cake next!
Whisk your beet puree with your two large eggs and salt very well until they are well combined.
In a large bowl, or a clean table space, create a mound of flour and then make a hole in the centre to create a crater. Pour in your the beet mixture in and start mixing the flour and beet puree with a fork. You will get to a point where the fork is not good enough anymore, you need something bigger to mix, like your hands. Get them in there and work the dough.
The beet pasta dough tend to get quite sticky and soft. That is actually quite normal but keep working at it until the gluten kicks in. Sprinkle flour when the dough gets too sticky and keep kneading until it becomes a lovely ball of dough. It’s a bit softer than regular pasta dough but it shouldn’t be too sticky. Now, this means you’re almost done working the dough. Keep kneading the ball of pink dough until it becomes smooth like a baby’s butt.
You know it’s kneaded well when you give it a push with your finger and the dough bounces back slightly. Sprinkle with a bit of regular flour and let the dough rest for 30 minutes in a plastic cover wrap. Stand back and admire it’s hot pink colour and rejoice that it’s all natural!
After 30 minutes, it’s time to roll your dough out with a rolling pin or a bottle of wine. You could also use a pasta machine, like I did but if you use a roller, your pasta will be slightly thicker and more rustic. Some prefer it that way, I do too, but I am using my machine this time. You must aim to get it as thin as two playing cards put together if you’re rolling it with a pin. Or slightly thinner if you’re using your pasta machine.
Dust generously with flour as you roll if you feel the pasta sticking. Once you have a nice sheet of pasta, dust again with flour generously. You want to fold them over generous dusting of flour before cutting so nothing sticks together.
I folded the sheet of pasta into the size of a notebook and then I’d cut it by hand, at approximately 3/4 inch thick for a nice tagliatelle. It’s okay if some strands are of not in even sizes because it’s what pasta making is all about, rusticity and comfort.
Separate your pasta strands and toss the tagliatelle gently with your fingers; and with a sprinkle of semolina flour. Divide them into 8 portions for appetizer size meals or 4 portions for a main course; or 2 portions if you’re a glutton.
Let the tagliatelle dry in the fridge. The longer you let it dry the more colour fast it is, which means you can cook it slightly longer. If you cook it as soon as you cut it, make sure you cook it quick and in a pot of rolling-boil-salted water. Fresh pastas takes 1 minute and 30 seconds at most anyway but if they’ve been dried, it might 30 seconds more, but no more.
When your tagliatelle floats to the top, you know they’re done and ready for any sauce you want on top. Fish them out with chopsticks like me or drain the pot completely and immediately transfer them to their sauce. Eat immediately for best results!
I am going to reserve my next post for the two treatments I gave this pasta.