I’ve tried to start this post a handful of times already and it keeps coming out weirdly contrived… so I’m just going to say it: I’m thoroughly pleased with myself for putting this baby together.
But seriously – that colour! And the fact that it actually came out looking pink in my pictures instead of brown, the way beetroot often does for me (anyone else?!) – that’s a wonderful little bonus.
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll already know that around here we have a mild obsession with Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s conchiglie with yoghurt, peas and chile. It’s a majestic dish, plain and simple, and I think we eat it at least once a week at this point. Yoghurt makes an unexpectedly good sauce for pasta! And combine that with the sweetness of green peas, the spicy, fatty goodness of pine nuts toasted in olive oil and chile flakes, and the sharp saltiness of feta, and you have got yourself a real winner.
This pasta with beetroot yoghurt sauce is essentially my pink homage to that dish. It’s a bit sweeter and earthier and 100% pinker, but it’s still that wonderful marriage of yoghurt with nuts, feta, and fresh herbs.
Just like the original, this pasta dish takes only about 20 minutes to whip up. The only real ‘work’ you need to do is to grate the raw beetroot (and attempt to scrub your hands clean afterwards)… and if you’ve got a food processor that can handle that for you, then you’re laughing! All that’s left to do is to pop it into some Greek yoghurt with a bit of cumin and some garlic and, if you’re feeling wild, some crushed chili flakes.
To accompany all of that cumin-y, garlic-y, earthy sauce, you toast some finely chopped walnuts in some olive oil with lemon zest, for a bit of brightness. Then, right before you dig in, you squeeze some fresh lemon juice right over the top of your plate/bowl. This addition, a brilliant suggestion by my boyfriend, helps to counteract the inherent sweetness of the beetroot, and it also gives the dish a really good tangy kick.
Once your pasta’s cooked and you’ve tossed it into the sauce, you may be tempted to leave off the toppings altogether…
But push through it! The toppings are what make this pasta sing.
My boyfriend Pieter and I had different ideas on the plating, so we both set off to create our own masterpiece… in the end I think they both worked a treat.
(I’m all about that ‘effortless’ and ‘casual’ – but actually took tweezers and twenty minutes of patient diligence – look.)
But really anything will do as long as you can carry it from your plate/bowl to your mouth. And now I’ve done enough bragging & babbling, so I’ll leave you with the recipe!
This beautifully pink pasta with beetroot yoghurt sauce is delicious topped with feta, walnuts, fresh parsley, and lemon.
Depending on the strength of your blender, you may be left with small chunks of raw beetroot in your sauce. I personally don't mind this, but if you think you might, you could easily strain the sauce to remove any extra bits in there.
I suggest going for a low-fat or non-fat Greek yoghurt for this recipe, because otherwise the dish can start to feel quite heavy. I also find that non-fat yoghurt gives a bit more tang than its fattier counterpart.
Any pasta will do instead of the penne that I use. However I do recommend sticking to shapes that do not have too much 'hidden' surface area (I'm thinking specifically of fusilli here) as they will soak up much more of the sauce and the dish might come out a bit dry.
Count on having no leftovers, as the sauce will soak right into the pasta as it sits and you'll be left with a sauceless, rather pasty mess!