I can honestly say this is one of my all time favourite pasta recipes. Using up the awkward bits of vegetables that we usually throw away – in this case beetroot stalks and leaves – forces us to get creative in the kitchen and often results in delicious recipes.
Having recently taken to growing my own vegetables I had an abundance of beetroot over early summer. Not wanting to waste anything – especially something I had nurtured and watched grow, I researched how to use beetroot stems and leaves. There was very little out there – and almost zero recipes. I did, however, learn they weren’t poisonous so went ahead and began experimenting.
I discovered my favourite way to eat them is sautéed gently in garlic. They have a subtle sweetness and of course that wonderful earthy flavour of the beets themselves. Adding them to pasta was the obvious decision – they pack a nutritious punch to an otherwise comforting meal and give the pasta a beautiful pinkish hue.
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Prep time: 20 minutes
6 beetroot leaves and stems
6 cherry tomatoes
1/2 leek – the green part
1 brown onion
2 garlic cloves
Zest of half a lemon
2 large handfuls penne pasta
2 tbsp crumbled feta
Olive oil for frying
Cook pasta as per packet instructions in salted boiling water.
In a heavy based frying pan heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil over a medium heat. Fry off the finely chopped leek and onion until soft but not coloured. Next, stir in the chopped pink beetroot stems and the anchovies – you can break these down slightly with the back of a wooden spoon. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes before adding in the cherry tomatoes, lemon zest, garlic and beetroot leaves.
Just before the penne has finished cooking, spoon out about 50ml of the pasta water and add to the frying pan to create a sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper – you may decide you don’t need salt because of the anchovies.
Strain the penne and stir through the vegetables with a little glug of olive oil and finish with a crumble of feta to serve.
You may prefer Parmesan to feta, although this might get a little too cloying. The creaminess of the feta is really just right.
A crisp glass of Pinot Grigio.