Three attempts at purple pasta

(Nederlandstalige versie)

I recently bought another bag of purple carrots and a few containers of purple beetroot leaves (more on those in my next market post!) and I thought I’d use them to make coloured pasta. The final dishes weren’t as brightly coloured as I’d hoped, but I did have a lot of fun making them, so today I’m sharing a few photos of the process and the end results.

Pasta dough

I started with purple tagliatelle coloured using a purple leafy vegetable called “bull’s blood”, which I stir-fried in olive oil and blended before incorporating it into the dough.

Pasta dough Purple pasta

In addition to flour, salt, and oil, I also added a bit of soya yoghurt to the dough. I’d never seen this done before, but non-vegan pasta recipes often include eggs and my favourite vegan pasta dough contains chickpea flour, so I wanted to try this as a way to add extra protein. The texture of the dough was good, but I’m not sure whether it would go with every type of sauce because the cooked pasta did have a faint yoghurt aroma.

Purple pasta Purple pasta

Whenever I’d made fresh pasta in the past, I’d have to stop halfway through to figure out where the heck I was going to leave all the pasta while I rolled out the rest of the dough. This time I decided to try hanging a laundry drying rack from my kitchen wall, and that actually worked pretty well! OK, we hardly had any room to walk and the floor was a floury mess, but at least I could finish the pasta without everything sticking together.

And now for the plates of cooked tagliatelle. I knew in advance that I didn’t want to dress the dishes up too much so that the focus would be on the pasta, both in terms of colour and flavour. Unfortunately the lack of sauce also gave the pasta the chance to get super sticky, so next time I would use more oil/and or cooking water (even though the latter looked dark grey and fairly creepy after I’d used it to boil the purple pasta).

Purple pasta with chillies Purple pasta with dill and sunflower seed pesto and peas

For the plate on the left, I just fried slices of red chilli pepper and garlic in olive oil and stirred them into the hot pasta. I think this is one of those dishes that’s incredibly simple but very easy to love, and it definitely allows the pasta to shine.

I wanted to use a little more sauce for the pasta on the right, so I made a pesto with dill, toasted sunflower seeds, lemon juice and salt, inspired by three creamy pasta dishes with dill that I’d seen on Alynda’s blog De Plantaardige Keuken. I also added some peas. Of course the sauce dulled the colour of the pasta, and the pasta was still a bit sticky, but the combination with the creamy dill sauce was lovely.

Purple gnocchi Purple gnocchi with roasted purple carrots and parsley pesto

I had purple carrots on hand and I’d made orange gnocchi before, so this time I made purple carrot gnocchi using the same recipe. Again, the dough looked great, but the colour of the cooked gnocchi wasn’t nearly as bright. They were almost more blue than purple. I mixed in roasted orange and purple carrots (which may only have made the dish look even more alien) and put some parsley pesto on top. I love gnocchi and pesto and roasted carrots, so I think this was my favourite of the three dishes.

So: would I recommend making these kinds of pasta dough? Yes, especially if you’re like me and it makes you happy to see all these bright colours in your kitchen. It’s a nice change, and it doesn’t take much more work than regular fresh pasta. The colour does limit the number of sauces you can serve with the pasta if you don’t want it to look too revolting.

Have you ever made coloured pasta? I still feel like fresh pasta takes a lot of work, but it gets easier every time and I kind of feel I should use the pasta machine more often to justify the space it takes up in my cupboard. I’d like to find a way to make the colour of the pasta even more intense — maybe by using roasted carrots for the gnocchi instead of boiled ones? But then you still have to boil the dough, and that gets rid of a lot of the colour as well. I did some googling and I found ideas for all kinds of coloured pasta with different vegetables — look at these! And these! Ahh so pretty.

Carrot gnocchi with fennel en papillote

(Nederlandstalige versie)

I kept seeing people on cooking shows preparing dishes en papillote and it looked pretty and I wanted to try it too. I think this technique is mostly used for fish (maybe it would work well on seitan?) but I decided to use it for fennel, one of my favourite vegetables.

I also cooked up a pot of gnocchi again because I love making them, even though mine always turn into irregular lumps rather than pretty pillows (at least this way they’re quicker to make). (And look, it’s a post with an actual recipe! I thought I’d try that for a change).

Carrot gnocchi with fennel and toasted almonds

Carrot gnocchi with fennel en papillote and toasted almonds (serves 2)

For the gnocchi:
300 g carrots (three large ones), in 1-cm (1/2-inch) slices
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
120 g (1 cup) plain flour (more or less; use only as much as needed)

For the fennel:
1 fennel bulb
a few shallots (depending on their size) or a red onion, quartered or sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh dill, minced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the almonds:
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped almonds (or sliced almonds if you have them)
a pinch of salt

1. Preheat the oven to 200 °C (400 °F).

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add the carrots and boil them for about 10 minutes. Scoop the carrots out of the pot but leave the water; you can use it to boil the gnocchi later. Drain the carrots well and leave them to cool for a bit.

3. Meanwhile, prep the rest of the vegetables. Remove the root of the fennel bulb and separate the leaves. Rinse them to get rid of any dirt and remove any dark or wilted parts, but reserve the little green fronds. Slice the fennel 1-2 cm (1/2-1 inch) thick and mince the fronds.

4. Place a large piece of aluminium foil or parchment paper on a baking sheet (I preferred foil; see the note below). Place the fennel and fennel fronds on the baking sheet along with the shallots, dill, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix everything together with your hands, fold the foil or baking paper over the vegetables and seal the edges of the parcel so no steam can escape (see the link at the bottom of this post for a video). Put the baking sheet in the oven for 20-30 minutes (depending on how soft you like your vegetables).

5. Puree the carrot, which will mostly have cooled down by now, with the olive oil and salt using a blender or food processor (a stick blender works fine as long as the carrot is soft). Start incorporating the flour: stir it into the carrot puree a few tablespoons at a time until the dough becomes too stiff to stir. Dust your work surface with flour and knead the dough a few times but add as little flour as possible. Divide the dough into four parts and roll each piece into a 30-cm (12-inch) rope. Cut the ropes into rectangular chunks to form the gnocchi. I like to put the finished gnocchi on a clean tea towel so they don’t stick to the work surface and I can easily lift them to transfer them to the pot.

6. Bring the pot of water that you used to cook the carrots to the boil again. Add the gnocchi, cover the pot with a lid, and let the gnocchi cook gently until they float to the surface — a few minutes. Remove the gnocchi (I scoop them from the pan using a sieve because they can be very delicate) and let them drain well.

7. While the gnocchi are cooking, heat the olive oil and chopped almonds in a large frying pan over medium heat until the almonds are lightly browned. Sprinkle them with the pinch of salt, scoop them from the pan, and set them aside for now. Now add the drained carrot gnocchi to the pan and pan-fry them in the olive oil for a few minutes until some of the edges are golden brown, stirring every now and then.

8. By now the fennel should be ready as well. Remove the parcel from the oven and add the contents to the pan of gnocchi along with the toasted almonds. Stir everything together, divide between two bowls and serve immediately.


A note about sealing the vegetables in the parcel: this video demonstrates how to seal the parchment paper so no steam can escape. Unfortunately my piece of paper was too small and my fennel bulb was too big, so I couldn’t seal the parcel with having it tear. If the same happens to you or you’d like to prevent it from happening, you can add an extra layer of aluminium foil (or just use foil to begin with) — as long as the parcel is sealed well.

Carrot gnocchi

Parsnip & fennel patties, parsnip gnocchi, beetroot risotto, parsnip chips

I’ve written about the Haagse Markt before—the market is one of the main things that’s keeping my low-budget meals interesting and healthy. I love to take photos of all the stuff I bring home, so I thought it would be nice to share them on here a bit more often. I always want more recipe ideas for seasonal vegetables and maybe you do, too, so this could be a good way to keep track of what I make. Here’s what I bought this time:

Vegetables from the market

Three boxes of cherry tomatoes for €1, six red and yellow peppers for €1, 500 grams of yeast for €2.50, a bag of garlic (about 10 bulbs?) for €2, two heads of broccoli for €1.50, four courgettes for €1, a big bag of rocket greens for €1, too many parsnips to count for €1, eight beetroots for €1, six fennel bulbs for €1, and a bunch of fresh coriander for €0.40.

And this is what I used it for: roasted tomatoes, rocket pesto, white bean patties with parsnip and fennel, parsnip gnocchi, broccoli & potato mash, beetroot risotto, parsnip stews, fennel soups, omelettes with stir-fried broccoli, roasted beetroots, roasted parsnips, roasted garlic, and several stir-fries, pizzas, and salads. I only took pictures of a couple of these, but here they are:

White bean patties with parsnip and fennel

I had white beans I needed to eat, so I used them to make burgers with some of the fennel and parsnips. I sautéed the vegetables with onions and garlic until softened and then mashed them into the beans with herbs and fennel seeds for flavour, roasted sunflower seeds for texture, and rolled oats to hold everything together. These were definitely veggie patties with no resemblance to non-vegetarian burgers other than their shape, and they made for great sandwiches. In the picture above, I had one in a pita with rocket leaves, roasted tomatoes and onions, and rocket pesto (hidden underneath).

Parsnip gnocchi

I wanted to try something new with my parsnips, so I used them in these gnocchi. The recipe is very similar to regular gnocchi—just with parsnip puree instead of mashed potatoes—but they were a nice change and I found the dough to be really easy to work with. If you want to make them too, just peel, dice, and boil two parsnips, mash them well (I used my stick blender) and mix in some olive oil and salt (I also added some chopped fresh parsley). Let the purée cool down a bit and start stirring in scoops of flour, adding just enough to make a kneadable dough. Then roll the rough into ropes and cut into small pieces to make the gnocchi. Cook the gnocchi by boiling them in plenty of boiling salted water until they float to the surface. For the meal pictured above, I pan-fried the leftover gnocchi in olive oil with red onion, pears, tempeh and rocket greens. I think these would be even better with something creamy to offset the sweetness of the parsnips—maybe a cashew cheese?

Beetroot risotto & tempeh

Speaking of creaminess, I love pairing root vegetables with creamy things but I’ve been looking for something a little more budget-friendly than cashews to make that happen. To go with the beetroot risotto pictured above, I made the cashew ricotta from Veganomicon but with sunflower seeds instead. It wasn’t quite as creamy, but it went well with the rest of the meal. I’m not sure the dish actually counts as a risotto, because I basically poured all the ingredients in a pot and went to take a shower while it simmered away, but it turned out pretty well for so little effort. I added some cumin seeds to the risotto and some oregano to the ricotta and we had it with smoky pan-fried tempeh.

Parsnip chips

I have to say we were almost getting sick of parsnips by the time we had consumed about twelve of them, but then I roasted the last two and it made me wish I’d bought more. I cut them into small crunchy chips and I had some mayonnaise left from another meal, so this was a great snack!

I think I’ve used up everything now except two beets, and I’ve already picked up new veggies for this week. I came home with more red cabbage than I know what to do with, so I need to go look for new recipes!

Instant mashed potato gnocchi

It’s been a slow MoFo week for me—I won’t bore you with excuses but I would like to tell you about these gnocchi I made the other day. Gnocchi are one of my favourite foods and as homemade pastas go, they’re pretty easy to make (especially if you don’t mind if they’re all different shapes). While looking for tips on low-budget eating, I came across this post on North South Food with an idea to make them even easier: use instant mashed potatoes. Now, I don’t think I’d ever made instant mash before so I was a little apprehensive about this, but I admit it was convenient not to have to peel and mash the potatoes first (hate peeling things!). I’m still not sold on the flavour, though. Even incorporated into the pasta, I thought it tasted a little off—it kind of reminded me of Pringles? Though I guess if you like Pringles, that may be a good thing!

I’m also not sure that the instant mash necessarily saved me a lot of money in this dish, as I’d just bought a big bag of potatoes on sale and I think the same amount of fresh potatoes would’ve been just as inexpensive. On the other hand, if you can get instant mash on sale you can stock up and it won’t start sprouting as my potatoes inevitably end up doing. In any case, I prefer the flavour of fresh potato gnocchi, but this short-cut definitely makes it easier to make them quickly and without planning ahead.

I served the gnocchi with homemade pesto (which can be reasonably inexpensive if you grow basil in your windowsill—and it’s certainly cheaper than shop-bought pesto) and roasted tomatoes. No picture of the finished dish because when I have a plate of fresh gnocchi in front of me, I want to start eating!