When I was a little thing and hadn’t yet learned to make my own dinner, my mother had the impossible task of whipping something up that my picky palate would actually accept as edible.
Most of the time I just sucked it up and ate what was in front of me so that I would be allowed to have ice cream for dessert. Of the few dishes that I would eat without complaint, pasta and hot dogs were my all time favorites. It’s a good thing I didn’t cook for myself or else that would be all I ate.
So when my mom wanted to easily sneak some vegetables into me, she’d usually make soup (if a kid can’t see what they’re eating, they can’t complain, right?). And it worked – I vividly remember gobbling down bowlfuls of butternut squash or carrot soup with black pepper and globs of sour cream.
Recently, I got a beautiful bunch of carrots from Boston Organics, a local produce delivery service that operates week-to-week rather than requiring you to commit for an entire season like some CSAs. It’s a godsend. (I’m not being paid to advertise it, I swear.)
Anyway, I initially wanted to prepare them in a way that would allow their beauty to shine. But I also happened to be really craving a big bowl of pasta, if you can believe it. So I decided to use the carrots in the pasta dough, and then added a healthy dose of freshly cracked black pepper for good measure.
Operation carrot pasta: great success.
But what to do with all those greens left over? They themselves have a fresh, slightly grassy carrot flavor, and there was no way I was going to waste them. So, in true Yin + Yolk fashion, I made some pesto.
And not to toot my own horn, but…wow. This pasta, and this pesto, and the whole dish…it’s as close to perfect as I’ve ever gotten to pasta heaven. Which is saying a lot, because I make and (eat) way more pasta than any non-Italian should.
This recipe for pasta dough makes about three pounds, which is a lot. I did this because if you’re anything like me, you’d rather have extra pasta that you can freeze for later if you’re going through the trouble of making pasta by hand. But if you don’t have the time for all that, it can easily be cut in half.
I’m glad I made extra. I’ve had enough for dinner for four nights out of the past week, and I haven’t gotten sick of it yet. My taste testers agreed – this dish is remarkably good.
So if you’re trying to sneak some veggies past a picky child, or you just want to treat yo’self to a lovely homemade meal, I’ve got you covered.
Handmade Carrot Pasta with Carrot Top Pesto
By L., adapted from Martha Stewart
Yields about 3 pounds of pasta (aka an exorbitant amount)
For the pasta:
18 ounces carrots, boiled (about 16 medium carrots; roughly 2 cups mashed)
9 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh cracked black pepper
semolina flour for dusting
For the pesto (makes 2 cups):
3 unpeeled garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup almonds
1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for desired consistency
4 cups carrot top leaves
3/4 cup basil
1/2 cup Parmeggiano Reggiano
1/2 cup starchy pasta water
In a large blender, process the carrots until puréed, then add eggs and process until homogenous.
In the bowl of an electric mixer (or a large wide bowl if mixing by hand) mix together the flour, salt and pepper. Create a well in the center of the flour and slowly pour in the carrot mixture while combining it slowly with the flour. When everything is combined you should have a sticky mass of dough.
With well floured hands, transfer the dough to a generously floured surface and separate the dough into two. Knead each piece of dough until smooth, elastic, and no longer sticky. Wrap each piece of dough in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the pesto.
In a small saucepan, roast the unpeeled garlic cloves until aromatic. Crush the garlic to peel it, then toss them in a 4-cup food processor and add the salt and almonds. Blend together, then add all the greens and olive oil. Process until it comes together into a paste. If it’s too thick, add more olive oil. Throw in the parmesan and blend. Set aside, in the food processor, until ready to serve.
Take one of the pasta dough packets out and cut off 1/4 to work with – make sure the rest of the dough is rewrapped so it doesn’t dry out. Gently try to shape the small piece of dough into a square or rectangle, and then begin rolling the dough into a thin rectangular sheet – about 1-2mm thick and two feet wide. Flour the sheet lightly then begin folding the dough over itself like a letter. Use a large knife or bench scraper to cut strips out of the folded dough to your desired size. Working quickly, unfold each strand of pasta and let rest on a sheet pan sprinkled with semolina or all-purpose flour. Continue with the remaining quarters of dough.
When the pasta has dried a little, combine them into nests. At this point you can either freeze them for up to three months, refrigerate them for a few days, or cook immediately.
Boil heavily salted water then add your desired amount of dried pasta. Cook for only one and a half to two minutes until al dente (or longer if it had been frozen). Reserve 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water, then drain immediately and quickly toss with olive oil to prevent sticking.
Add the reserved pasta water to the pesto and process until it looks creamy. Toss the pasta with your desired amount of pesto and serve with grated parmesan. Leftover pesto can be refrigerated for a week or two, and any excess dressed pasta can also be refrigerated for a week – add some cherry tomatoes to the cold pasta and you’ve got yourself one hell of a pasta salad.