Pesto Pasta Salad with Roasted Beets
The addition of a basil pesto and melted goat cheese makes this pesto pasta salad with roasted beets hearty enough to be a meal.
Being married to an Italian we have our fair share of pasta in this house, and yet I don’t often make pasta salad. I think it has to do with the noodle selection in my pantry. We are either a long, twirl with your fork pasta family OR we a teeny tiny stars/circles/alphabet soup pasta family. Penne, rigatoni, and these cute little fusilli are just not around that much.
It was my moms birthday and I know how much she loves beets. Vegetables in general, but beets are high up on the list. Beets are NOT on my list. They are just okay to me. I made cupcakes with beets once. Those little guys were SO good and you would never know the beet was there. And then one time I replaced a beef burger with a beet. But in general we are not cooking with a ton of beets in the house.
Because this was going to be the main course, I wanted the pasta to be coated with something substantial that would work well with the beets. Pesto was the best solution. You could easily use store bought pesto here. A little goes a long way. I had a basil plant on the counter so I just made up a batch using what I had in the fridge. The key is not to go to heavy handed with the pesto or is makes the pasta oily.
I added avocado, zucchini and a few different greens that were leftover in the fridge. This was going to be a salad dish, not necessarily a pasta dish but at the same time, it was dinner so it needed to be hearty enough. The avocado and goat cheese were rich creamy elements that just tied everything together.
In hindsight, after I made this, I realized I don’t think my mom actually likes goat cheese. She is too thoughtful and kind to ever say anything but it kind of hit me as I was bringing it to the table. This gesture for her birthday may actually be quite the opposite of what she would have wanted. So sorry about that Mom. And thank you for being too polite to tell me. Happy Birthday!!
- 8 small to medium beets, peels and cut into bite size pieces
- 1 tablespoon + ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 teaspoons salt, divided
- 1 340g box of fusilli
- 4 oz goat cheese (or cream cheese if preferred)
- 1 cup of fresh basil
- Juice of half a lemon
- Garlci, one to two cloves
- 1 small zucchini, sliced into bite size pieces
- 1 avocado, sliced
- A large head of leafy green lettuce (like romaine or curly) OR 4 cups loosely back spring greens
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lay beets on a baking tray and toss with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast for 45 minutes, checking for doneness at the 30 minute mark. You want to seem some caramelization on the edges of the beets.
- While the beets are roasting, bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the instructions until al dente. Drain the pasta and while it is still warm, toss it with the goat (or cream) cheese until all the pasta is covered. Set aside.
- To make the pesto, add the basil, oil, lemon, garlic and salt to a food processor or high powered blender and process still smooth. Add several heaping tablespoons to the pasta and toss well. Adjust to desired taste. Ensuring the pasta is cool, add beets, sliced avocado, zucchini and lettuce and toss well. Garnish with reserved basil.