Pesto is one of my favourite things to make because it’s so versatile and delicious. I’m a big fan of traditional basil pesto, but I also love it made with sun dried tomatoes, garlic scapes, or roasted red peppers. I love making big batches of various kinds of pesto then freezing them in small containers. It thaws quickly and I use it to stuff mushroom caps, add creaminess to salad dressings and even to give a soups a big flavour perk-up.
The idea of using beets to make pesto occurred to me as I was contemplating this year’s Valentine’s Day menu, which at my house always has to include vibrant pink or red food. When my husband, who is truly a guinea pig/taste tester extraordinaire, took his first bite yesterday of pasta with beet pesto, he immediately declared it one of the most delicious things he’s eaten in years. I didn’t bother telling him how simple it was to prepare, nor how nutritious it is.
Put the beets and garlic in a 1 quart oven safe casserole dish. Drizzle with 2 tbsp of olive oil and toss to evenly coat the beets. Cover tightly and bake 35 – 40 minutes, until beets are tender.
Remove beets from oven and let cool 15 minutes or longer, still tightly covered.
Put beets, garlic and accumulated juices in a food processor or sturdy blender. Add toasted walnuts, pepper, salt, lemon juice and olive oil. Process until mixture is uniformly pureed.
To serve, add a few tablespoons of pesto at a time to hot, drained pasta. Toss with two forks until pasta is evenly coated, adding a bit more pesto if needed. Top with parmesan cheese and serve.
Makes approximately 1.5 cups of pesto.