Remembering Beets So Red It’s Fusilli!

I am “Cooking Red To Remember” today. Because today is World AIDS Day. Angela at SpinachTiger organized this as a way to remember that AIDS is not over. Not by a long shot. So please visit SpinachTiger to fully understand why this day and this event is so important to her. As for my own reaction and my own feelings about this tragic disease, you may read my previous post about this event here.

But today is about remembrance and it need not be sad day. Even under these circumstances. So I am reaching back into the archive of this blog and pulling out a memory of my own. Red Beet Fusilli with Balsamic, Poppy Seeds and Mint. I am reaching backwards both as a tribute to this day, and also because I never cooked more RED in my life! My brother has his own way to remember, so he’s also brought us an excellent wine pairing for this recipe. A red wine naturally, and an Italian wine to boot, appropriately remembering Angela’s heritage. Sipping Red To Remember! Good job, lil bro!

So let’s all jump in and remember joyfully and with a real showstopper? Are you ready? I mean really ready! Because a showstopper is what this really is.

wine pairing Castella Banfi Centine ToscanoThe amazing thing is, for all its showstopping beauty, it is actually very simple to make. Naturally it is delicious. I would not make it if it weren’t. It’s even a healthy pasta dish. But these facts are merely interesting asides compared to its truly special quality.

The fusilli I used is a standard semolina pasta. It happens to be a well-made dried pasta. There is no riboflavin or thiamine in this pasta. It comes by its golden hue from the creamy yellow heart of durum wheat semolina and water. Nothing else is added to hinder its sauce sucking attributes.

Though that interesting little fact makes it a far better tasting pasta. It is still not what makes this recipe the real showstopper I keep mentioning.

Nope, the accolades come from its deeply crimson color. The color is so vibrant you could easily call it candy-apple red.

Though there is an unmistakable sweetness to this dish. The real flavors are earthy and acidic, with just a touch of nuttiness.

Because this is pasta with beets, balsamic vinegar and poppy seeds, tossed with a little Parmigiano-Reggiano and mint!  I know you are going to want to make this one. So I’ll get right to the point.

It’s so easy. There I said it…

I usually secretly roll my eyes when cooks harp on the phrase “it’s so easy” Like some sort of mantra.

Like being easy all by itself is the only information I need to rush right home and start using cherry Jell‑o in a perfectly silly recipe for  chocolate mousse with candy cinnamon hearts and Grand Marnier cream.

My usual backhanded retort is: “It’s so easy because you are such a good cook”.  I know it sounds like I am being rancorous, but I smile when I say it. So people usually let it go with a chuckle. Yikes! Why did I let that secret out of the bag?

Anyway, here I go. I am going to start this recipe with the phrase: “It’s so easy”. 

AIDS ribbonAll you do is take a few grated beets and toss them in a little hot brown butter and balsamic vinegar. Cover the pan while you boil the pasta. Add the cooked noodles to the beets and mix. The deep red color just happens all on its own. And like a said (more like harped), it’s so easy. Click here for a printable recipe. This is my simplified slightly lighter version of a Melissa Clark recipe.

There is no real cooking involved. The heat from the hot noodles does all the work, including melt the cheese. All you have to do is stir and sprinkle in a few toasted poppy seeds. Then luxuriate in the cheers and applause showering upon you from every corner of the dining room; as you stop the show and bring down the house.  But don’t you dare admit how easy it is.


Greg Henry