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Author Notes: I tend to favor tomato based pastas, but decided to step out of my comfort zone and try a bechamel. It seemed right to balance all of the creaminess with lots of fresh vegetables. Do not be shy with the nutmeg, salt, and pepper in the sauce. If you cannot find trugole, substitute your favorite, meltable, Italian cheese (fontina would be nice). Also, go ahead and substitute golden beets for the red, to create a softer, more sophisticated, plate appeal. —Jennifer Ann
- 3/4 pound penne rigate
- 1 red beet, roasted and finely shredded
- 1/4 cup whole milk ricotta
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 shallot, sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 bunches Swiss Chard (approximately 1 pound), chopped
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
- 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
- 1/2 cup parmesan reggiano
- salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1 cup trugole, shredded
- preheat oven to 350; bring large pot of salted water to a boil; add penne rigate, and cook until just beginning to soften, but not yet al dente (approximately 3 minutes, or half the suggested cooking time); transfer to colander, rinse with cold water, drain, and set aside
- combine beets and ricotta in a small bowl; salt and pepper to taste, and set aside
- heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauce pan; add shallots and cook until tender (do not let shallots brown); add garlic and stir for about 1 minute, until very fragrant; add Swiss chard and cook until just tender; strain in a sieve, and set aside
- to make the bechamel, melt the butter in a small sauce pan over medium low heat; whisk in flour to form a roux of medium consistency; whisk in the milk, about 1/2 cup at a time; allow sauce to simmer for about 10 minutes, until it thickens up a bit, but is still pourable; remove from heat, and add nutmeg, parmesan, walnuts, salt and pepper
- transfer the penne rigate to a large bowl; squeeze excess water from the chard, and mix into the pasta; stir in bechamel sauce; transfer to a baking dish brushed in olive oil; nestle in dollops of the beet ricotta mixture (keeping in mind how you intend to cut/serve the pasta); top with trugole; and bake 10 minutes, or until cheese begins to brown
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Baked Pasta
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