So the title is a little embarrassing, but it’s not far off Valentine’s day, and I’m a total sop at heart.  For Valentines dinner itself, my husband and I ate sardines on toast whilst talking about work.  We should, instead, have eaten this.

Freshly juiced beetroot

For many years, I hated beetroot because they were red, and mostly pickled.  However, I’ve slowly come round to them.  It started with unavoidable deliveries in a vegetable box, roasted up with cumin seeds and a little goats cheese; growing them myself last summer I was able to enjoy the leaves in salads; and now I can barely survive a hangover without squeezing a glass of beetroot and apple juice (two small apples to one medium beetroot – sweet, earthy, mellow, life enhancing).

I am yet to touch a vac-packed or pickled root.

This is where pink pasta comes in.  Beetroot tagliatelle doesn’t keep the depth of crimson that you see when you first roll out the dough, but it’s a good deep pink nonetheless.

The dough is slightly more challenging to work with than normal egg pasta dough.  If you haven’t made pasta before you’ll find it a whole lot more enjoyable if you replace the juice with an additional egg, and leave pink pasta for another day.  I also now have the benefit of making pasta under the close tutelage of the lovely Italian, Carla Tomasi, on Twitter, who shared with me the drying technique below – previously having been one to hang-and-dry, and am learning the errors of my ways!

Recipe: Beetroot tagliatelle, with sage butter and pine nuts
Serves 3-4

Pasta dough
300g type 00 flour
2 medium eggs
60g beetroot  juice (this was most of the juice from a 140g beetroot)

Topping
A few handfuls of spinach (optional)
6-8 sage leaves, sliced thinly
Butter or olive oil
Couple of handfuls of pine nuts, lightly toasted in a frying pan
Parmesan, grated (ideally on a very fine microplane to get the billowing clouds of cheese)
salt and pepper to taste

To make the pasta
To make the pasta dough, put flour into a bowl and make a well in the centre.  Crack the eggs into a separate bowl, mix lightly with a fork, and pour into the centre of the flour.  Add 2/3 of the beetroot juice.  Mix together until the it forms a stiff dough.  Add more beetroot if needed (beware of adding too much liquid – see Buckwheat Kugel for pasta 101).  Knead gently for a couple of minutes – pasta dough can be kneaded with just one hand, and needs far less work than a bread dough.  Wrap in clingfilm and leave to rest for 30 minutes.

Cut the pasta into 4 pieces, remove 1 piece, and wrap the remainder in clingfilm (prevents it drying out).  Flatten the piece a little by hand, and pass through the widest setting on your pasta roller.  Fold in half, and pass through again.  Fold in half the other way, and pass through again.  If the edges are getting raggedy, fold these in, and pass through again.  This process helps to make the dough more elastic.  Repeat a few times.

Then start to reduce the thickness setting on your pasta machine.  Pass the pasta once through on each thickness.  Part way through you may need to cut the dough into two to make handling it more manageable.  This dough is softer and more delicate than many doughs because of the addition of the beetroot juice, so do not try to go to thin.  I stopped at 5 on the kitchenaid.  Lay pasta sheet on a floured surface and repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.  Leave the sheets out to dry for 30 to 60 minutes, turning every so often.  When it is ready, you should be able to press between two fingers and not leave a sticky mark.  This additional turning makes them less likely to stick together or to the cutter.  Cut in a tagliatelle cutte, and either use immediately, or leave on a surface to dry, turning regularly until fully dried out.  It will keep for quite a long time..

Finishing
When ready to use, bring a large pan of water to the boil.  Season generously with salt.  Pour in the pasta, and boil for between 2 and 5 minutes depending on how dry or thick the pasta is.

Whilst the pasta is on, put the spinach into a large pan with a knob of butter or olive oil and put the lid on.  Remove lid after a couple of minutes, and add another knob of butter and the sage leaves.  Mix well with a wooden spoon and you should see an emulsion form between the butter and water in the pan.  Add a ladel-full of pasta water to the spinach pan, and mix again to retain the emulsion.  Season with plenty of black pepper.  If you’re not using spinach, just sauté the sage leaves in butter, add the pasta water, and go from there.

Strain the pasta through a colander, and pour in the pan with the spinach and sage mixture.  Mix well.  Portion pasta into bowls, and top with the parmesan cheese and pine nuts.