Beets are finally having their moment. Boasting a borderline superfood status, beetroots contain impressive amounts of folate, vitamin C, magnesium, antioxidants, and more. The roots have also been well-studied for their positive effects on blood pressure and heart health, glucose levels (beneficial for diabetics), and are even touted as an exercise performance booster.
Of course, we also love them because of their sweet, earthy flavor and truly epic color, and enjoy using them to enhance all kinds of dishes … from salads, to dips, to even desserts. And now, we’re bringing them into an exciting new culinary category: pasta!
Don’t worry, you won’t have to make pasta from scratch to savor this purple powerhouse of a vegetable. Here, we’re using beets in the sauce itself, which dyes the pasta beautifully the moment it's tossed. What’s more, we’re not just using the beet root, we’re using the entire beet: root, stems, leaves, and all! After all, there’s so much additional flavor and nutrition in every component of beets, and this is a perfect opportunity to enjoy this special vegetable in its entirety and without any waste.
We chose a Bolognese style of sauce to complement the beet’s mild sweetness, which is traditionally made with ground beef. Here, instead of meat, we used black lentils, which keeps this recipe as heart-healthy as possible, while still retaining the satisfaction of a chunky, high-protein sauce. Add in some extra superfood-power from hemp seeds, and this sauce is an instant classic for the wellness-minded.
With its antioxidants, high fiber, healthy protein, good fats, and rich greens, this dish is truly a complete package that's a feast for the eyes and the body!
WATCH HOW WE MAKE OUR BEET BOLOGNESE:
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BEET BOLOGNESE PREP TIPS:
Go pro with your pasta endeavors by putting these quick cooking tips to use.
Pick Very Fresh Beets. Since you’ll be using the whole beet, choose a beets "bunch" that has smaller beetroots (indicating a younger crop and sweeter flavor), and crisp, healthy leaves.
Use Black Lentils. For the best Bolognese texture, use black lentils, Puy lentils, Beluga lentils, or French lentils, all of which retain a firmer shape—other varieties, like green or red lentils, will be too mushy. You can purchase pre-cooked black lentils in canned form, or cook a batch of dry lentils yourself according to the manufacturer’s directions (they usually take around 20 minutes to make).
Choose A Light Pasta. Chickpea pasta is a great variety to use for this recipe—not only for its high protein content, but also its light color ensures the desirable vibrancy of the beetroot sauce really shines through. If you choose another variety, try to pick one that also has a light hue.
The Food Processor Is Optional. You’ll notice in our recipe and video that we recommended using a food processor to help chop up the sauce ingredients prior to cooking. This helps ensure the vegetables are chopped both finely and quickly, reducing prep time. However, you can also chop everything by hand: just be sure to err on the side of “mince.” (Or in other words, about the same size you’d chop up garlic—aka tiny!)
Multitask Away. Cut down on your cooking time by making the the pasta and the Bolognese sauce simultaneously. We recommend heating up the pasta water on the stove after steaming the beets (use the same pot!), and putting the pasta in when you start cooking the sauce.
MORE HEALTHY PASTA RECIPES:
Penne with Beet Bolognese
From root to leaf, enjoy every inch of fabulous fresh beets in this high-protein, plant-based pasta.
Prep Time: 5 mins | Cook Time: 30 mins | Total Time: 35 mins Servings: 4 Author: Julie Morris
1 pound of beets with greens attached (about 3-4 small beets)
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
8 ounces chickpea penne pasta (or use other type of penne)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups cooked black lentils (or 2 15-ounce cans, rinsed and drained)
2 cups vegetable stock, or more as needed
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar, or other wine-based vinegar
2 teaspoons fresh thyme (or ½ teaspoon dried thyme)
Sea salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
¼ cup hemp seeds, plus extra for serving
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1. Wash the beets, stems, and leaves very well. Trim off the rooty ends from the beets, and discard. Trim away the stems with the leaves, and keep on standby. Slice the beets into into quarters. Chop enough of the stems until to fill ½ cup generously, and set them aside. Slice the beet greens thinly, and set them aside separately.
2. Set a steamer basket in a large pot filled with one-inch of boiling water. Add the beet quarters, and steam them over high heat until just tender, about 10-12 minutes. Rinse the beets with cool water, then rub away the peel. (Use a paring knife to remove any stubborn peel remnants.)
3. To a food processor, add the onion, garlic, and chopped beet stems. Pulse until finely chopped (like a chunky salsa), but do not puree. Remove the mixture from the machine, and keep it on standby for cooking. Add the steamed beets to the processor, and pulse until finely chopped as well—keep on standby separately.
4. Cook the penne according to the manufacturer’s directions.
5. To make the Bolognese, warm the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped onion mixture, and sauté until softened, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the beets, lentils, vegetable stock, sherry vinegar, and thyme, as well as ¾ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon of ground black pepper. Bring to a simmer, and cook on medium-low until the broth is reduced to just about a third of a cup—about 12-14 minutes. Add the sliced beet greens, cover, and let them steam for 2-3 minutes until bright green. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in ¼ cup hemp seeds and nutritional yeast.
6. Add the Bolognese to the pasta and toss well. Add a little extra broth if needed, and adjust seasoning as desired. Serve warm, topped with additional hemp seeds and fresh parsley.