Red Butterflies with Parmesan

red butterflies on white with text

I won’t make you guess what gives this pasta its gorgeous color. It’s BEETS! And oh-my-word, is this dish delicious. The beets and pasta make the dish hearty, and the lemon juice and mint give it a fresh burst of flavor – perfect for this transitional season when we’re stuck {seemingly forever} between winter and spring.

According to the notes on the recipe, I first made it in 1994 – which means I would have been living in Toronto, and just learning my way around the kitchen. I wrote “excellent!” at the top of the page.

Diane Seed’s “More Great Italian Pasta” made its way to my collection back then, and opened my eyes to some incredibly creative things to do with pasta and vegetables. {Check out the “fake” Mac n’ Cheese recipe inspired by Diane.} The cookbook is dogeared and spattered, the sign of a true favorite. I’m sure I tried making this because it was while living in Canada that I discovered beets at our favorite restaurant

Maybe you’re not that adventurous and haven’t had any desire to try beets – or maybe you’ve had a bad beet experience {it happens}. Or maybe you wish you could get your kids to eat beets. Camouflaged in this bright sauce, I bet they’ll give them a try – just don’t tell them they’re beets until afterward.

The original recipe calls for twice as much cream and three times as much butter as I use here. I also cut the cheese by a third. If I were serving this for a special occasion, rather than a weeknight meal at home, I might go back to the original amounts… if my gym membership was current!

If you want to make it healthier still, use whole-wheat pasta and substitute almond milk for the cream.

Red Butterflies with Parmesan
  • 1 pound fresh beets
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 pound farfalle {butterfly} pasta
  • salt
  • 2 ounces {about 1 cup} fresh grated Parmesan
  • black pepper
  • 1 Tbs chopped fresh mint
  • 1 Tbs lemon zest
  1. Scrub beets and cut off stems {if still on} and root end. Wrap each beet in foil and place on a cookie sheet. Roast in 350º oven until tender, about an hour, for medium sized beets. Cool slightly, then slip off peels. Chop into chunks.
  2. Cook the onion in the butter until soft, then pour in the wine and cook for 3 minutes. Add the beets and cook for another 5 minutes. Allow to cool slightly then transfer to a food processor and puree with the lemon juice and cream. Transfer the sauce into a large bowl.
  3. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water. Drain and stir into the sauce with the Parmesan.
  4. Season to taste. Sprinkle with the mint and lemon zest and serve at once.

“More Great Italian Pasta” can be a little hard to find – on Amazon, it’s only available from third party sellers. The good news is you can get it for next to nothing.

Red Butterflies with Parmesan

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