beet fettuccine with almonds + thyme
Making your own pasta is a simple process and if you're willing to put in a little muscle, it does not require special equipment. The star of this recipe is really the pasta dough itself -- what you serve it with is up to you. I garnished mine with the same beets that flavor and color the pasta dough, along with a drizzle of olive oil, almonds, thyme, and ricotta cheese. If you wanted to dress things up a bit, a white wine cream sauce would be lovely, as would a simple browned butter with sage. The options are endless.
for the pasta dough:
4 medium to large beets, greens removed and peeled [some will be reserved for garnish]
2 egg yolks
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
extra virgin olive oil
fresh thyme leaves
flaked or coarse salt
sliced almonds, toasted
reserved beets from pasta dough
Cut the peeled beets into large chunks and add to a stock pot. Fill with enough water to cover the beets by 1/2 of an inch. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cook until beets are tender when pierced with a fork, about 40-45 minutes. Remove beets and reserve the water for cooking the pasta later.
Reserve about half of the beets and set aside [these will be used for garnish when plating]. Place the other half in a food processor and blend until completely smooth. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool completely.
Once cool, add 3/4 cup of the beet puree, egg, egg yolks, and olive oil to a medium bowl. Whisk gently until everything is completely combined.
Add the flour to a large work surface and form a mound. Make a well in the center, and carefully pour the beet and egg mixture into it (making sure it is completely surrounded by the flour). Using a fork, slowly incorporate the flour into the wet mixture, starting with the inner edges and working outward, until a shaggy, sticky dough starts to form. At this point, knead the dough for about 8-10 minutes, until completely smooth, dusting your work surface lightly with flour if it sticks [be careful not to add too much flour, as it will make the dough too dry]. Once your dough is completely smooth, wrap it tightly in plastic and allow to rest at room temperature for at least 45 minutes.
Once rested, divide the dough in four equal parts. Working with one section of dough at a time on a floured, large work surface, roll out the dough until about 1/4-inch thick. Fold in half and repeat 2 more times. Lastly, roll the dough in a large rectangle until as thin as possible [about 2 - 3 millimeters thick]. Make sure to move the dough often while rolling to ensure it does not stick to the work surface, and make sure to keep all dough that is not being rolled covered to prevent it from drying out. This whole process will take some muscle. Alternatively, if you have one, you can use a pasta roller to roll the dough in the same manner. Cut the rolled dough into strips, about 1/4-inch in width. Cover with plastic wrap until ready to cook to avoid them drying out.
To cook the pasta: bring a large stockpot of water and the reserved beet water to a boil over high heat. Season with salt. Add the fettuccine strips and cook until just al dente [about 2 - 3 minutes]. Drain and toss immediately with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
To plate: arrange the pasta on a plate and drizzle with additional extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves, coarse salt, and toasted almonds. Serve each plate with a spoonful of ricotta cheese and the reserved cooked beets.
Yield: 1 1/2 pounds of dough