For a special dinner or for a fun, easy alternative to traditional pasta recipes, you can prepare colorful pasta dishes using dyes from other foods, such as spinach, carrots, tomatoes and squid ink. Betalain, the pigment that gives red beets their distinctive color, makes an effective dye, turning everything the beets come into contact with -- including store-bought pasta -- a deep pink hue.
Things You'll Need
- Large pot
Prepare the beet juice. For homemade beet juice, you can boil beets in water for approximately 45 minutes, or until they're tender, and reserve the cooking liquid. You can also pass the raw beets through a food processor or blend them on high in a blender, then place them in a sieve or a cheesecloth and squeeze out the juice into a bowl. Alternatively, you can drain a couple cans of beets and use the packing liquid.
Bring your liquid to a rolling boil in a large pot. If you’re using water that you’ve boiled beets in, you don’t need to add anything to it. If you have squeezed juice out of raw beets or if you are using beet packing liquid, use one part beet juice and one part fresh water. You should have approximately 4 quarts of liquid for each pound of dry pasta you're cooking.
Add your pasta to the boiling liquid. You can use any type of pasta that you want, from fettuccine to macaroni. Do not salt the water. Salt will keep the beet’s pigment from adhering to your pasta.
Cook the pasta, following the directions on your package, until it is al dente.
Drain the pasta in a large colander and discard the cooking liquid. Once the pasta has been cooked and drained, you can season it with salt.
Tips & Warnings
- Pink pasta makes a colorful cold pasta salad when you toss it with a vinaigrette and top it with a bit of crème fraiche. For warm dishes, pair your pink pasta with either a white or a cheese sauce. Add a contrasting color to your dish with some cooked peas, asparagus, broccoli or other green vegetable.
- Beet juice will not only dye your pasta, it will also discolor your hands and any surface it comes into contact with. After handling the beets or beet juice, wash your hands, cutting board and utensils with hot, soapy water. To protect your hands, you can wear clean rubber gloves while you’re handling the beets.
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- Prevention’s The Healthy Cook: The Ultimate Illustrated Kitchen Guide to Great Low-Fat Food; David Joachim and Matthew Hoffman
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- Wild Flavors: One Chef’s Transformative Year Cooking from Eva’s Farm; Didi Emmons
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- Photo Credit Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images