Thursday, February 26, 2009

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Fettuccine Alfredo & Raw Beets

I borrowed that picture from Disney, but they can have it back any time they ask. It's a caricature of Alfredo di Lelio, the Roman restaurateur who invented fettuccine alfredo in 1914 to soothe the stomach of his pregnant wife. Or so says the internets. 

Very proud of last night's fettuccine alfredo dinner, which I made from scratch using Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Two reasons for pride:

1. Spinach pasta. First time ever, huge hit. It was a little gnarly rolling this out because the dough was super-sticky even after copious additions of extra flour, but we muddled through and the results were a brilliant grass green and ridiculously delicious.

2. Wicked alfredo sauce. I've never had an alfredo this good. I attribute its excellence to the eggs that Bittman has you whisk into the warmed pasta bowl along with cream and a mountain of Parmesan. Yes. Horribly fattening. But great.

I also made Bittman's raw beet salad because I had this vision of a painterly red-and-green meal. My expectations for the salad were low, as I think of raw beets as a food people ate out of desperation while hiding from Nazis in Ukrainian barns.

But it turns out that raw beets you shred in a Cuisinart and dress in a mustardy vinaigrette make an earthy salad that is as tasty as it is bright. 

At least I thought so. I was the only one in the family willing to try it. 

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian is an awesome book. I appreciate it more every day. While I don't feel any healthier and I'm definitely not slimmer, our food bills have dropped noticeably and precipitously during this meatless period and we've been eating really well.


  1. I've made a goal for myself to learn to like beets this year. I've never eaten them . . . is this a good beginning beet eater's recipe? Or would I be better off roasting them?

    Colored pasta is so much fun. I want to make all sorts of colors now.

  2. Layne -- the pasta I really wanted to make was beet pasta but my spouse is such a beet-hater I couldn't inflict it upon him. Am waiting for the proper occasion when he is absent to attempt.
    This is not the best starter beet recipe. Try roasting them and making a salad with toasted nuts and Humboldt Fog (or similar) cheese. That's how I got completely over my beet thing. There's a restaurant here that serves that salad and it is practically the only lunch for which I will spend money and leave the house. It is so good.

  3. Goodness, Tipsy, you have been busy writing this week. And I have been neglecting the wonderful, interesting, often very funny entries. I almost feel I am becoming an excellent cook without having to actually pick up the pot---all quite enjoyable, vicarious and easy.

    The Vegetarian phase is so timely, given the economic times and all the health information emphasizing anti-oxidents, lots of fruits and vegetables, etc. You make it all seem relatively manageable---though not as easy as my baked potato and salad last night, sweet potato and guacamole on whole wheat (home made) bread on Monday. But a lot more interesting.

    Keep up the good work.

  4. That beet salad looks absolutely divine. I'm a beet lover--always order the salads at restaurants and even like the ones that come from a can. But the one time I tried to cook with them at home they turned into a sloppy mess. I accidentally overcooked them until they were soggy and tasteless. Maybe I'd be more successful with this raw recipe.

    So enjoying this blog! Your graphics, writing, anecdotes--everything is divine! And you always make me laugh!

  5. ok, first, layne, i like your profile photo. very eye-catching!

    and tipsy, great post, but i really really want a photo of the spinach pasta too. if you took one, can you post it? dying to see it. and would you say it's better than plain pasta? and how much spinach does it use? enough to make it actually healthy to eat?
    damn, i must remember not to read tipsy at 10pm, after i've finished a diet day of eating, now i am STARVING for spinach pasta alfredo.

  6. wow, i just tasted that beet salad. it is GREAT. so great. and so healthy. but mostly, so great. i mean, i love tangy tart crunchy things, and it was all of those, but really flavorful and appetizing. i shall be making that recipe, and actually i think it might be a good one for a beet newbie to try. it's totally different than cooked beets, in flavor, texture, etc, and for me, much better.