Zac and I should have spent last weekend at our Catholic Engaged Encounter, but our dog, Charlie, got sick causing us to reschedule. I always wonder how they came up with the name “Catholic Engaged Encounter”. Why “encounter”? Are we going to experience a strong spiritual awakening? Are we going to learn so many new things about each other that we will seem like strangers at the end of the weekend? Are there aliens involved?
The class is mandatory for anyone wishing to get married in the Catholic church. In our archdiocese, this class is structured as a weekend getaway instead of just a couple of hours of classes. The version we will be attending is of the adult sleep away camp style. From Friday night at 7 PM to Sunday at 4 PM we are required to be onsite in a camp somewhere north of Everett. We are responsible for bringing all our own bedding, a snack for the group, and of course our souls open to spiritual things. Oh, and we have to room with strangers. Zac and I have lived together since before we were officially dating for a year. I don’t see one weekend of separate sleeping arrangements making up for the sins we’ve already committed against the church.
If you think I sound sarcastic and skeptical, you aren’t wrong. The whole premise of the weekend is to prepare us for marriage and assess if we are a good fit as a couple. But I don’t understand how this can be accomplished in one weekend. It feels rushed and judgmental. Like if the Church deems us incompatible we are ultimately doomed to failure. I’m choosing not to believe this is true. There is so much more to relationships than can be found out in a weekend. Honestly, we were both a little relieved about postponing.
So, with a sick dog and no plans, we got to enjoy a low-key weekend! One of my favorite things to do when I have a free weekend is to make fresh pasta. It’s a task that I find monotonous in a good way. It’s a process that is steady, calm, and normally a good way to relieve my anxiety. So, I made fresh cavatelli and paired it with a spicy tomato sauce. I saw this short video years ago of Mario Batali making a very similar dish using tomato paste and pasta water to build a quick sauce. His version included gnocchi and butternut squash. I found that unless you are using some firmer gnocchi, they tend to fall apart as the sauce cooks. I do highly recommend trying this recipe with the butternut squash as it’s delicious. I choose to use golden beets because that’s what I had on hand. Like the butternut squash, the beets add a nice sweetness and balance against the heartier tomato paste.
Notes on this recipe:
The recipe calls for a large amount of pasta because I made it with fresh cavatelli, which are denser. If you don’t have fresh cavatelli you can certainly substitute dried pasta, but I would start with ½ to ¾ can of tomato sauce then add more as needed.
Save your pasta water!!! I tend to cook the pasta before the sauce, so I have the starchy pasta water on hand to add. I would save about 3 cups of pasta water to be safe.
The red onion and jalapeno quantities are personal preference. I use more of both because I love red onion and the heat from jalapenos, but feel free to use less or omit completely.
Cavatelli with Beets and Spicy Tomato Sauce
Adapted from a Mario Batali Cooking Video
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Inactive time: 1 hour
Serves: 4 large servings
Shelf Life: about 1 week airtight in the fridge
1 beet, large (golden or red)
1 can tomato paste
¼ to ½ of red onion, thinly sliced (use depending on your preference)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 - 2 jalapenos diced depending on heat preference, seeded and veins removed (optional)
½ cup grana Padano or parmesan cheese
1 ¾ lb fresh cavatelli pasta
Reserved pasta water, about 3 cups
2 ½ tablespoons olive oil
Roasting the Beet
Preheat the oven to 400. If you are using the oven for another dish, the beet can be cooked at that temperature. They will cook faster at higher temperatures and slower at lower ones.
If the beet still has its leaves, trim the leaves close to the stem. Scrub the beet thoroughly and wrap individually loosely in foil. Put the beet in a baking dish to avoid leaking while baking.
Roast for an hour, checking occasionally. The beet is finished cooking when you can insert a skewer easily into the center.
Let the beet cool for about 10 minutes or until it is cool enough to handle. Holding the beet in a paper towel or clean kitchen towel, using the other part of the towel to rub off the beet skin. The skin should come off easily; if it does not then put the beet back in the oven to continue cooking.
Cut the beets into ½ inch cubes. Note that if you are using golden beets, you should wait to peel and cube the beets until right before making this dish as they will oxidize and turn brown.
Making the Pasta
Set a large pot to boil and salt the water generously. Once boiling add the cavatelli for 2-5 minutes; cook until al dente. Check for doneness. Drain, reserving 3 cups of the pasta water. Toss the pasta in a tablespoon of olive oil so they do not stick. Set aside.
In a large sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat.
Add in roasted, cubed beets. Cook for 3-4 minutes till lightly browned, then toss beets and cook 3-4 minutes more.
Turn the heat down to medium and add in an additional ½ tablespoon of olive oil.
Add in diced jalapeno and cook for 2 minutes.
Add in garlic and cook for additional 1 minute.
Add in tomato paste, 1 cup of pasta water, and the red onion. Stir to combine. Turn the heat down to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add in an additional ½ cup of pasta water. Stir to combine.
Add in the reserved cavatelli pasta. Stir to coat with sauce.
Cook pasta in sauce for another 5-7 minutes. If at any point your sauce gets too thick or you want it to be thinner, add in additional pasta water starting with a ¼ cup. The sauce should end up smooth and creamy.
Once the sauce is at the consistency you want, add in the ½ cup of grana Padano and stir to combine. Serve immediately.