Beets are among the healthiest veggies you can eat. When I was a kid, my father would tell my brother and I that eating beets would make our blood redder and healthier. 😉 While the facts are not as simple as he made them sound so our young brains could grasp them, they were also not far from the truth.
Beets are rich in iron and folates and so many other nutrients our blood--and the rest of our bodies--need. The nitrates in beets can help with blood flow and blood pressure, according to health sources. And consuming beets can improve your stamina.
So, in short, this is a wonder food, and one you should be incorporating into your diet on a regular basis.
As much as I love red beets, I often find myself gravitating toward their golden siblings when I make something like this pesto, partly so I don't have to worry about staining the rest of my food pink. While pink pasta may appeal to some, and no judgments, I know Jay will be quick to know there's something amiss and turn up his nose at it. Golden pasta, on the other hand, just looks...golden. And that's rather nice.
Golden beets have almost exactly the same nutritional profile as red beets, and they also taste less earthier, which makes them perfect in this recipe and for anyone who, like Jay, doesn't adore beets.
Yes. You don't have to change anything else in the recipe if you decide to use red beets instead of golden.
You will need to cook the beets before you add them to the pesto and the best way to do that is to toast them. I trim the ends, spray on cooking spray and a touch of salt, and wrap them tightly in foil before throwing them into a preheated 450-degree toaster oven, where I let them go for 45 minutes. The beets should cook through and a knife inserted into the center of a beet should go through cleanly.
I don't peel beets if they are organic and they were this time, so I left the peels on. Just make sure you scrub the beets clean of any earth clinging to them.
I use walnuts in the pesto, and you can use another nut of your choice, like pine nuts or cashews. But if you are nut-free, I'd recommend raw pumpkin seeds, which I often use in pestos with fabulous results. Use the same quantity as the nuts.
Tips and tricks
This pesto has very few ingredients, and cumin is what I stirred in this time for a great flavor boost, but if you want to amp up the flavor even more I have several suggestions:
- Add a teaspoon or two of za'atar into the pesto. Za'atar has a wonderful, lemony flavor that goes very nicely with beets, and it is perfect in this pesto.
- Squeeze in a lemon. I didn't use any lemon in the pesto this time because I was going to add capers to the pasta and they are both salty and tangy. But lemon juice--and some lemon zest--would be great in here.
- Be generous with the garlic. I usually don't add too much garlic into a pesto, but I added four cloves in here and they were perfect. I would recommend going higher, not lower, if you want your pasta to be more garlicky.
- This pesto works great with spaghetti. You can use another longer pasta like linguini or even angel hair. I wouldn't recommend it for small pasta shapes, although I do sincerely believe that an orzo can dazzle with any sauce it decides to wear.
Vegan Golden Beet Pesto
- 1 pound golden beets (or red beets, about 4 medium beets, cleaned and trimmed. Peel if you like, I leave the skins on when using organic beets)
- 4 cloves garlic (chopped)
- ¼ cup walnuts (lightly toasted. Use pumpkin seeds if nut-free)
- 1-2 tsp ground cumin (see tips and tricks above for other flavoring ideas)
- ¼ cup sundried tomatoes (packed in oil is what I used but you could use any kind. Olives are a great substitute, as are capers. Use 2 tbsp if using capers.)
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (you can use less if you want to keep this lower in fat. You may need to add some water or vegetable stock to get the right consistency)
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. This is much easier to do in a toaster oven, but if you don't have one a conventional oven is fine.
- Place the trimmed and cleaned beets on a large piece of foil. Sprinkle on some salt, spray with cooking spray, and wrap in the foil. Place in the oven and roast 45 minutes or until a knife in the center of a beet goes cleanly through.
- When the beets are clean enough to handle, chop them into large pieces. Place in a blender or food processor with the rest of the ingredients and process into a coarse paste.
- Stir into spaghetti or any long pasta.