Creamy Fusilli with Beets, Kale, and Toasted Pine Nuts

by Gena on December 15, 2011

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Thursday night express post!

This is my kinda pasta. Fusilli overflowing with beets, garlicky kale, toasted pine nuts, and just a touch of electric pink cashew cream sauce. This bowl screams “healthy!” more than most pasta dishes, replacing what’s usually a bowl full of beige colored pasta with the bright hues and beauty of the vegetable kingdom.

This pasta was originally going to be even more minimalistic: sauteed kale, roasted beets, toasted pine nuts, and olive oil—maybe a spot of pesto. But it was a drizzly, cold early winter day, and I was craving something a little heartier and creamier. I usually forgo using my cashew alfredo on regular pasta—I find that the combination of pure cashew sauce and hot pasta ends being altogether too rich for me, and prefer to use an almond milk/arrowroot/nutritional yeast mix (with a little cashew thrown in) for cooked pasta alfredo. But I also know that a tiny bit of cashew cream goes a long way in dishes. So the idea was to use just a thin coating of cashew cream (blended with some fresh beet for color) and let the veggies do the rest of the talking.

It worked. This pasta bowl hits the perfect sweet spot between hearty and light. You’ll feel satisfied, warm, and content, but you won’t feel as though your creamy pasta dinner has pushed you into a coma. It’s an ideal weeknight supper as the weather gets colder, and best of all, it harnesses the health properties of a few of nature’s plant superfoods!

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Creamy Fusilli with Beets, Kale, and Pine Nuts (vegan, gluten free as prepared, soy free)

Serves 4

8 oz dry pasta (I always use Tinkyada brown rice pasta)
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 large (or 4 small) red beets, trimmed of stems and roots
4 heaping cups washed and chopped kale
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsps olive oil, separated

1 recipe of my cashew alfredo, with 1/2 cooked beet blended in for color (the beet part is optional!)

1) Heat oven to 400 degrees. Wrap your beets in tinfoil (really, wrap them—don’t just line a sheet) and roast for about 40-45 minutes, or until a knife pierces one of your beets easily.

Remove beets from oven and run them under very cold water. When they’ve cooled sufficiently, you can just slip their skins off. Skin them, chop them, and set aside.

2) Place pine nuts in a small frying pan and toast for a few minutes, or until they’re just barely golden (they’ll keep cooking after you remove them from heat, so you have to watch this like a hawk). Set aside.

3) Place a pot of salted water on the stove to boil. Add a drizzle of olive oil to prevent your pasta from sticking once you put it in. When the water is boiling, add pasta and cook till tender, but still a little al dente. Drain pasta, toss with 1 tsp olive oil, and set aside momentarily, while your greens finish cooking.

4) Per the above, while pasta is cooking, heat 1 tsp oil in a large sautee pan or pot. When it’s hot, add the garlic and cook for about 1-2 minutes. Add the kale, along with a few tablespoons of water and a nice pinch of salt, and allow the greens to cook and steam, stirring occasionally, for about 5-10 minutes. You do NOT want to wilt the kale entirely—it should retain some crunch and form. When it’s just right, remove from the heat.

5) Place cooked pasta, kale, and roast beets in a large serving bowl. Pour about 1/3-1/2 cup of the alfredo over the pasta and veggies, and mix well. Top with toasted pine nuts, and serve!

Look at all of the texture and color here:

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And, if I may be lame for a moment, these are very Christmas-y colors.

Just sayin.’

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You may be thinking, why the heck should I bother with brown rice pasta, when the regular stuff is easy to find? Good question. The answer is that I think brown rice and quinoa pasta are far, far more tender and tasty than whole wheat pasta, which is often tough and tasteless. I recommend them strongly if you’re looking to replace regular pasta with something more wholesome.

This recipe sounds a little complex, but believe me when I say that it’s very easy if you roast the beets ahead of time, or even skip toasting your pine nuts. If you’re really pressed for time, you can use canned beets, or some of the cool vacuumed packed and pre-cooked ones they sell at health stores now. And I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that the dish is loaded with superior nutrition: kale is packed with iron, protein, and vitamins A & K, while the beets offer heavy doses of anti-oxidants and phytonutrients with anti-inflammatory properties. Even pine nuts, tiny though they are, are nutritionally fascinating: they contain some of the same compounds that regulate appetite and satiety in human beings, which means that some have postulated that they’re useful for hunger management.

Regardless of what drives you to this colorful supper—the Christmas tones, the nutrition, or the creamy taste—I hope you enjoy it.

Maybe with a macaroon or two for dessert Winking smile

I’ll probably be taking tomorrow off, as my giant biology final is on Saturday at 8 am. So I’ll see you back here after my test!

xo

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga December 15, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Good luck with your test and this is the prettiest bowl of pasta I have EVER seen! This needs to be served at a wedding or a bridal shower or someplace fancy because it’s just too beautiful.

I just posted the yellowest pictures of my life (coconut oil plantains) and you just posted the pinkest ones…yours are prettier. I want to eat this JUST because it’s pink and gorgeous. And because I love beets, too! :)

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Maryea @ Happy Healthy Mama December 15, 2011 at 9:34 pm

I just got kale and beets in my CSA box yesterday-so glad I have a fun new recipe to try with them! Thank you!

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Tara December 15, 2011 at 9:37 pm

My house mates were JUST asking me what they should do with a can of beets they found at the back of their pantry. BOOM!

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bitt December 15, 2011 at 9:48 pm

I got some girls (age 8-9) I used to teach to eat beets just for the color they made on their lips. You’d be proud I actually ate some shredded raw beet today after a long hiatus. Way to spread the love about Tinkayada! We suspect Trader Joe’s brown rice pasta is the really that because it cooks the same way. We also only cook it for 9 minutes despite what the package says.

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ash December 15, 2011 at 9:55 pm

Oh what lovely colors! Kale is my favorite. You could try sautéing the kale in coconut oil–it’s even more scrumptious!

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Gena December 16, 2011 at 8:37 am

Kale in coconut oil is scrumptious indeed! But I didn’t really want coconut taste in this recipe, which I find the oil always leaves behind, at least a little.

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Hannah December 15, 2011 at 9:58 pm

This looks so cute! At school they always serve “fusilli” but of course it probably doesn’t compare to this. (!)

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Jane H. Johansen @ Nord Vegan December 15, 2011 at 11:39 pm

Beautiful color! I bet it tastes delicious too!

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Ariffa December 16, 2011 at 12:29 am

PINK! This is such a beautiful dish I can’t stop staring

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Ali December 16, 2011 at 1:33 am

This looks beautiful! Love love love it. You are great. Good luck on your test this weekend girl!!

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Sue December 16, 2011 at 2:15 am

This bowl doesn’t only scream “healthy”, but also “pink”! Very pretty!
Hm, I think you listed the pasta twice in your ingredients. That’s not intended, is it?
Anyway, good luck on your test!

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Beans December 16, 2011 at 1:44 pm

I’m curious about the pasta being listed twice also…

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Rande @ The Vegetable Centric Kitchen December 16, 2011 at 2:31 am

That does sound absolutely delicious and I’m such a sucker for beets.

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Lia December 16, 2011 at 7:30 am

I love that the pasta us bright magenta! Makes me smile and want to make it even more. And I agree with you about Brown Rice pasta. I love that stuff fir the taste and texture actually, more than it being wheat or gluten free (not a huge concern for me) Good luck on your tests! Remember: you’re a rock star!

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Amanda December 16, 2011 at 7:43 am

I LOVE the bright pink color of this dish. It’s been far too long since I bought beets.

Good luck on your test tomorrow!

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Kristen-vanillabeanvegan December 16, 2011 at 8:54 am

wow that looks so yummy, I was just thinking that i need to incorportate more beets into my diet yesterday, now i have to perfect recipe to make, I love how the beets turned the pasta red and it does look very christmas like. Thanks!!

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Christina December 16, 2011 at 9:32 am

Love the color!

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Lauren December 16, 2011 at 10:10 am

Amazing!!! GREEN AND RED- perfect Christmas meal!!! Not to mention that anything with kale and beets is going to be amazing no matter what you do with it. Thanks for posting a new kale recipe, I happen to be Kale obsessed, so much so I named by Site The Holy Kale!! You might like this kale recipe too: Asian Kale, Black Rice and Tempeh : ) http://www.theholykale.com/2011/11/asian-kale-black-rice-and-tempeh/

Thanks!

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Nathalie December 16, 2011 at 10:10 am

This looks so good and I loves me some beets! And I agree about brown rice pasta. Another reason I prefer it is because, even though I don’t have any gluten issues, I feel like there’s already wheat in so many other things I eat, that it must be better for me to have pasta made from something else.. just to add a bit more variety to my diet :)

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McKella December 16, 2011 at 10:48 am

When I looked at that, I thought of pretty pink Disney princesses. I’d love to try this, and I think I’ll call it “Princess Pasta.” I know a few little girls who would love this!

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Jess December 16, 2011 at 10:50 am

3 of my favorite things: Kale, Pasta and Beets! This recipe looks amazing- thanks for sharing, Gena!
Best of luck on your biology final :)

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Gena December 16, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Thanks Jess :)

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Christin@purplebirdblog December 16, 2011 at 11:23 am

I have been enjoying the way beets dye all my other roasted veggies pink, but this is sheer genius!

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Katie @ Serenity in the Storm December 16, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Gorgeous colors!!! I’m trying my best to like beets more. The color alone is reason enough to love them!

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Rebecca December 16, 2011 at 6:36 pm

Trader Joe’s makes a great organic brown rice pasta – two ingredients: organic brown rice and water. I think it cooks up better than the Tinkyada brand. It comes in spaghetti, penne and fusilli. Yum! Your pasta dish looks amazing, Gena!

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Kaitlyn@TheTieDyeFiles December 17, 2011 at 9:52 am

I love the pink pasta! What a fun way to brighten up these dark, dreary winter days.

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David T June 13, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Can someone enlighten me on the reasoning behind wrapping the beets whole when roasting? My experience has been that it is much faster to chop them and roast them like any other root veggie.

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David T June 13, 2012 at 5:53 pm

OK, quibble on the roasting technique aside, this dish is ridiculously delicious. I highly recommend using the beat greens if you can.

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Fiona March 19, 2013 at 9:38 pm

I changed this recipe a bit but oh my god it was good! My husband and I immediately deemed it worthy of our repeat list, and to be placed near the top too! I used a whole bunch of beets including the greens instead of kale. I used 8 oz whole wheat spaghetti and 1/2 of your recipe cashew Alfredo. I steamed my beets in chunks because its faster than roasting and a bit healthier, I think. I also steamed the beet stems and greens. Happy belly! Thanks for a keeper!

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Fiona March 19, 2013 at 9:40 pm

Oh and I left out the pine nuts and olive oil and blended 1 large garlic Clive in my sauce!

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Fiona March 19, 2013 at 9:41 pm

Clove that is. And I used the beet steaming water for my sauce. Sorry for all the addendums!

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