Recently we had guests over for dinner. I made saltimbocca with a side of carrots sauteed in garlic and thyme butter. It was pretty delicious if I do say so myself. Our gracious guests asked many questions about how the meal was made, including the carrots. One guest in particular kept asking me about the sweetness of the carrots. Had I used honey? Sugar? Maple syrup? Why were they so sweet.
I answered that the carrots were not altered just naturally sweet but after every bite she kept asking “Are you sure?” Thats when I thought, this is it! The height of the season the carrots are at their sweetness. Fall is melting into winter and the cold nighttime air is bringing out the absolute best in our pedestrian root vegetable favorites and we’ve finally reached the time of year when people just can’t believe their mouths because no simple carrot could be this good.
As a seize the moment type of girl, I set out to make a simple dinner that brought out the best in this simple ingredient. Lucky for me, I found not only orange but red, white, yellow, and purple haze carrots! Please feel free to use orange only, but this rainbow of carrots was just too fun to resist. My son had fun trying all the flavors, biting each one and saying “Nope” afterwards…not sure which color won.
I used my vegetable peeler to create thin ribbons of sweet carrots so that they would twirl with the spaghetti I had planned. A simple sauce of olive oil, and garlic was the base, with crushed red pepper and lemon juice to accent all that carroty sweetness. I had thought that I would crush hazelnuts all over the top but somehow made it out of the market without them… so walnuts it was but actually I think they turned out better, rich and a little bitter and of course just screaming autumn.
Rainbow Carrot Ribbon Pasta with Walnuts
6 large carrots
1/4 c olive oil
2 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
6-8 fresh sage leaves
1/4-1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp sea salt plus more for pasta cooking water
8 oz spaghetti or other long pasta, preferably good quality Italian
1 small or 1/2 large lemon
1/2 cup walnut halves, lightly crushed
Put a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling season liberally with salt. Drop in spaghetti and cook to al dente (tender but firm in the middle) via package directions. Drain pasta and be sure to save a cup of pasta cooking water for the sauce.
While pasta is cooking peel your carrots. Don’t put your peeler away! Use the vegetable peeler to create long ribbons of carrots turning the carrots as you go. Once your carrots are ready slice your garlic thinly. Put a pan large enough to hold all the pasta once it is cooked over medium heat. Once the pan is hot add your olive oil, garlic, crushed pepper, and sage. Saute aromatics in olive oil for 2-3 minutes until their aroma is apparent but they are not too darkly browned. Add in carrot ribbons and salt and soften 4-6 minutes.
As soon as the pasta comes out of the cooking water add that to the pan with the sauce along with 1/2 cup pasta cooking water. Toss vegetables and pasta together. Squeeze lemon juice over pasta and sprinkle with crushed walnuts. Taste and adjust salt and/or lemon juice if needed.