Perky pink beetroot pasta

At a glance

Preparation time: 10 mins

Cooking time: 10 mins

My relationship with beetroot has evolved over the years. As a young child, I thought it was horrible stuff, especially when kids had tinned beetroot on white bread sandwiches at school. The sandwiches would soak up the beetroot juice like a bloodied sponge and I couldn’t deal with the smell. I still maintain that tinned beetroot is not a great sandwich filling.

Then I matured somewhat and discovered the joy of beetroot on burgers, an Australian truck stop and takeaway tradition that I hope never dies. I still miss beetroot as an option on burgers 16 years after leaving Sydney.

And beetroot made a reappearance on many a menu, usually in the form of a beetroot risotto or beetroot and goat cheese tart, as restaurants tried to broaden their offerings to appeal to vegetarians. These dishes became so ubiquitous that soon vegetarians were quite rightly complaining that they never again wanted to eat another beetroot and goat cheese tart. Restaurants absolutely should be more imaginative when catering to the growing number of non-meat eaters – and carnivorous customers who just fancy laying off the dead animals or want to mix things up a bit.

But I digress. This beetroot pasta dish can be made without the smoked salmon – although I’d be inclined to throw a few capers through in that case, just to add that salty edge. I got the inspiration for this one from Saturday Kitchen. The weekly Keith Floyd nostalgia piece featured a bowtied Keith taking over a tiny French restaurant kitchen to make a creamy beetroot sauce. Plenty of his dishes look a bit too much these days as tastes change, but this sauce looked like something I would actually make, so I used it to inform this creamy pasta sauce that is super-easy for a lazy lunch or dinner.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 cooked beetroot, blended roughly or chopped into small pieces

100g smoked salmon, chopped into small pieces

125g mushrooms, finely chopped

8 asparagus spears, chopped into 1cm lengths

125ml white or rose wine

Basil, oregano, sweet paprika and salt to taste

3 heaped tablespoons of creme fraiche (or adjust depending on whether you’d like a thicker or thinner sauce)

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil and add the onions and garlic. Sautee  over a high heat until the onion is soft.
  2. Add the beetroot, smoked salmon, mushrooms, asparagus, herbs, spices and wine and cook for a few minutes over a medium heat. The pink should start to leech out of the beetroot to colour the sauce.
  3. Add the creme fraiche, turn the heat down and stir through until well combined.
  4. Serve with pasta. Leftover sauce keeps well in the fridge and can also be mixed through some cooked rice for an instant risotto, albeit one that would likely offend Italian cookery purists!