by Caroline

potato-print Valentines (a project supervised by my arty husband)

There was a time when Valentine’s Day had me making heart-shaped chocolate sandwich cookies, or even, just a few weeks before Ben was born, brownie ice cream sandwiches (I’ll never forget the lady who saw me standing in the ice cream aisle — I was looking for flavor inspiration — and commented, “It’s a bit too late to be counting calories, don’t you think?” I guess she’d never seen anyone who was pregnant before). But this year, as I’m entering the second week of an energy-sapping, mind-numbing head cold, I couldn’t imagine baking anything special to celebrate the day. So, uncharacteristically, I cooked dinner.

I can’t remember where I first discovered this recipe, but it’s a staple of our winter suppers, as it’s delicious, quick, and beautiful. You can pull it together in the time it takes to boil water and cook pasta, or you can make the beet topping ahead of time and let it sit until you’re ready to cook your pasta.

1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups (packed) peeled and coarsely grated uncooked beets (about 3 large beets)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
12 oz tagliatelle, fettucine, or other long pasta
8 oz sour cream (yogurt or goat cheese work nicely, too)
6 tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped

Melt butter with oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic; saute until pale golden, about 1 minute. Add the shredded beets and cayenne; reduce heat to medium-low and saute until beets are just tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in lemon juice. (At this point, you can set the beets aside till you’re ready to boil pasta for dinner)

Cook your pasta in large pot of boiling, salted water, stirring occasionally, until done.

Drain pasta, saving a little bit of the cooking water, and return to cooking pot. Stir in sour cream and 4 tbsp of parsley, then the beet mixture. Add a little bit of the pasta-cooking water if the mixture seems too dry. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer pasta to bowls, garnishing with remaining parsley and chopped walnuts.