Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Beet pesto and greens pasta

Easy roasted beet pesto, used as a sauce for gluten-free pasta and tossed with peppery beet greens: a gorgeous, healthy dinner that's simple and quick!

beet pesto and greens pasta

There is no more wonderful vegetable than a beet. There: I've said it. I've gone on record:

Beets rule.

Why, you may ask, do I make such a statement? ERMERGAHD, LOOK AT THAT COLOR! What other natural food has that kind of color -- and tastes good? (And yes, I know there are other colors of beets, but we're talking your average, fuchsia, beet-colored beet today, OK?)

However, that stunning color comes with a price: it stains. It stains EVERYTHING. This is an excellent property if you are, say, a Pilgrim who wants to dye your drab flaxen frock a gorgeous hot pink color (well, then I guess you wouldn't really be a very good Pilgrim now, would you?). It's not such a great property if you are simply trying to make dinner without ending up looking like a serial killer.

I know my love of beets is true love because I keep ... (wait for it) ... dedicated beet gloves in my kitchen.

(True story: Mr. Ninj was rummaging in the cabinet under the kitchen sink for a pair of rubber gloves to use in the garage and I shrieked, "Not those! Those are my BEET GLOVES!" Yes, I'm a complete dork.)

beet pesto and greens pasta

I used my beet gloves this week to create this beet pesto. People: I know you love easy recipes as much as I do (or you wouldn't keep coming back here, would you?). It doesn't get much easier than this recipe. Roast the beets and whirl 'em up in the food processor with some nuts, oil and cheese to make the pesto, and then cook some pasta and chop the beet greens. Done. Dinner in a flash! Gorgeous dinner in a flash! Gorgeous HEALTHY dinner in a flash!

If being able to eat pink food that is not a Peep is simply not enough for you, let's talk taste: beets take on a bit of sweetness when roasted, which is perfect paired with the nuttiness of walnuts and Parmesan cheese in the pesto -- both of which are complemented by the peppery sharpness of the beet greens.

Lastly, I used quinoa pasta which makes this a gluten-free dish. While I don't specifically need to eat gluten-free, preparing food for others who do has opened my eyes to all sorts of different grains and grain-alternatives, especially in the pasta department. If you're a purist, however, you can feel free to use whatever style pasta you like.

Have I convinced you yet? Please say yes. I'll even loan you my beet gloves.

beet pesto and greens pasta

Beet Pesto and Greens Pasta

Makes about 1 1/2 cups of pesto -- you will likely not use all of it on one pound of pasta, so simply freeze the remainder for another meal.

1 bunch beets with greens (about 4-5 medium beets)
1/4 cup walnuts
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 ounces olive oil
salt to taste
1 lb quinoa or brown rice pasta (I used quinoa spaghetti)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (more for serving)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Remove the greens from the beets, leaving about a half-inch stem, and set aside. Scrub the beets well with a vegetable brush and, while still damp, wrap each in a piece of foil and set them all on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for about an hour or until the beets are easy to pierce with a fork. Cool until they can be handled, then slip the skins off USING GLOVES, trimming the ends if necessary.

Place the walnuts in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add the garlic, beets and oil; process until smooth (you may want to add a little more oil). Add the cheese and process until completely incorporated. Season to taste with salt.

Meanwhile, remove the woody stems from the beet greens. Chop the greens and place them in a large colander in the sink. Cook the pasta according to package directions, retaining about 1/2 cup of pasta water, then drain into the colander containing the beet greens (the hot pasta water will blanch the greens). Return the greens and pasta to the pot and add a few dollops of pesto (to your liking), adding some of the pasta water to thin if you like (but I don't). Gently toss and heat through. Serve the pasta sprinkled with additional Parmesan cheese.

-- print recipe --


  1. I might definitely need to borrow your beet gloves...I LOVE beets too. This sounds delicious, and I love how you used some of the greens in there!

  2. What, no picture of the beet gloves???

  3. Silly, Ninj. Peeps are yellow. Except for those weird bubble-gum flavored ones...but those don't count. This beet pesto looks awesome! Pinning for later!

    1. HA! You're right -- it's the blue ones that scare me the most. Thanks for pinning, David!

  4. This is SO creative Ninj!! Love how you used both the beets and the greens in this recipe!! And you had me laughing with "It's not such a great property if you are simply trying to make dinner without ending up looking like a serial killer". So true!! And when you wrote
    ERMERGAHD it totally made me think of this meme that a friend sent me a while ago...

    1. BWAH HA HA!!! That is hilarious, Chris -- I may need to post that on my FB page!

  5. This pesto is so beautiful!! I love beets and I love pesto, so I will have to try this! Too funny about your beet gloves, I have a special cutting board that I use when I chop beets :)

    1. Get out that cutting board, Isadora, because you're going to love this pesto!

  6. I was wondering what to do with my beets and the greens from my CSA box. You solved it for me. Thank you

  7. Where does the garlic go? No mention of it in instructions?

    1. My bad -- sorry. Add to the processor with the beets and oil. I've just updated the instructions. Enjoy!