Thursday night express post!
This is my kinda pasta. Fusilli overflowing with beets, garlicky kale, toasted pine nuts, and just a touch of electric pink cashew cream sauce. This bowl screams “healthy!” more than most pasta dishes, replacing what’s usually a bowl full of beige colored pasta with the bright hues and beauty of the vegetable kingdom.
This pasta was originally going to be even more minimalistic: sauteed kale, roasted beets, toasted pine nuts, and olive oil—maybe a spot of pesto. But it was a drizzly, cold early winter day, and I was craving something a little heartier and creamier. I usually forgo using my cashew alfredo on regular pasta—I find that the combination of pure cashew sauce and hot pasta ends being altogether too rich for me, and prefer to use an almond milk/arrowroot/nutritional yeast mix (with a little cashew thrown in) for cooked pasta alfredo. But I also know that a tiny bit of cashew cream goes a long way in dishes. So the idea was to use just a thin coating of cashew cream (blended with some fresh beet for color) and let the veggies do the rest of the talking.
It worked. This pasta bowl hits the perfect sweet spot between hearty and light. You’ll feel satisfied, warm, and content, but you won’t feel as though your creamy pasta dinner has pushed you into a coma. It’s an ideal weeknight supper as the weather gets colder, and best of all, it harnesses the health properties of a few of nature’s plant superfoods!
Creamy Fusilli with Beets, Kale, and Pine Nuts (vegan, gluten free as prepared, soy free)
8 oz dry brown rice or quinoa pasta (I always use Tinkyada brown rice pasta)
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 large (or 4 small) red beets, trimmed of stems and roots
4 heaping cups washed and chopped kale
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsps olive oil, separated
1 recipe of my cashew alfredo, with 1/2 cooked beet blended in for color (the beet part is optional!)
1) Heat oven to 400 degrees. Wrap your beets in tinfoil (really, wrap them—don’t just line a sheet) and roast for about 40-45 minutes, or until a knife pierces one of your beets easily.
Remove beets from oven and run them under very cold water. When they’ve cooled sufficiently, you can just slip their skins off. Skin them, chop them, and set aside.
2) Place pine nuts in a small frying pan and toast for a few minutes, or until they’re just barely golden (they’ll keep cooking after you remove them from heat, so you have to watch this like a hawk). Set aside.
3) Place a pot of salted water on the stove to boil. Add a drizzle of olive oil to prevent your pasta from sticking once you put it in. When the water is boiling, add pasta and cook till tender, but still a little al dente. Drain pasta, toss with 1 tsp olive oil, and set aside momentarily, while your greens finish cooking.
4) Per the above, while pasta is cooking, heat 1 tsp oil in a large sautee pan or pot. When it’s hot, add the garlic and cook for about 1-2 minutes. Add the kale, along with a few tablespoons of water and a nice pinch of salt, and allow the greens to cook and steam, stirring occasionally, for about 5-10 minutes. You do NOT want to wilt the kale entirely—it should retain some crunch and form. When it’s just right, remove from the heat.
5) Place cooked pasta, kale, and roast beets in a large serving bowl. Pour about 1/3-1/2 cup of the alfredo over the pasta and veggies, and mix well. Top with toasted pine nuts, and serve!
Look at all of the texture and color here:
And, if I may be lame for a moment, these are very Christmas-y colors.
You may be thinking, why the heck should I bother with brown rice pasta, when the regular stuff is easy to find? Good question. The answer is that I think brown rice and quinoa pasta are far, far more tender and tasty than whole wheat pasta, which is often tough and tasteless. I recommend them strongly if you’re looking to replace regular pasta with something more wholesome.
This recipe sounds a little complex, but believe me when I say that it’s very easy if you roast the beets ahead of time, or even skip toasting your pine nuts. If you’re really pressed for time, you can use canned beets, or some of the cool vacuumed packed and pre-cooked ones they sell at health stores now. And I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that the dish is loaded with superior nutrition: kale is packed with iron, protein, and vitamins A & K, while the beets offer heavy doses of anti-oxidants and phytonutrients with anti-inflammatory properties. Even pine nuts, tiny though they are, are nutritionally fascinating: they contain some of the same compounds that regulate appetite and satiety in human beings, which means that some have postulated that they’re useful for hunger management.
Regardless of what drives you to this colorful supper—the Christmas tones, the nutrition, or the creamy taste—I hope you enjoy it.
Maybe with a macaroon or two for dessert
I’ll probably be taking tomorrow off, as my giant biology final is on Saturday at 8 am. So I’ll see you back here after my test!