This is a dish I often make for friends because of its color, but it’s the flavors that make return guests request it again and again. If you love the combination of sweet and salty, this dish is for you. From Everyone is Italian on Sunday.
SERVES 4 TO 6
1 bunch beets with large leafy tops
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the beets
Salt and pepper
1 pound spaghetti
1 (25 fl. oz.) bottle red Zinfandel or Barolo wine
4 large shallots, or 1 small red onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley tops, finely chopped
1/2 pound ricotta salata cheese, crumbled or grated
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Trim the beet greens, wash well, and cut into 1-inch-wide ribbons. Trim the beets, but leave unpeeled. Rub the beets with oil, season with salt and pepper, and place in a baking dish. Cover with foil and roast until tender, 50 minutes to 1 hour. When cool enough to handle, rub off the skins with a paper towel. (Rub your hands with a little oil to keep them from being stained.) Chop into small bite-size pieces (use a plastic cutting board so you don’t stain your wooden board).
Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Salt the water and cook the pasta for 5 minutes, then drain. Return the empty pot to the stove, add the wine, bring to a boil, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes to reduce. Add the parcooked pasta and cook over medium-high heat, tossing frequently with tongs, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the pasta is al dente. Add the beet greens when the pasta is just about al dente.
Meanwhile, in a skillet, heat the oil (3 turns of the pan) over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook until tender, 7 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the sugar. Add the vinegar and some of the wine sauce from the pasta pot and stir to deglaze the pan.
Scrape the onion mixture into the pasta pot and toss to combine with the pasta. Add the beets and parsley and toss well.
Serve topped with ricotta salata.
Photo by Frances Janisch