When Beet Pasta Goes Wrong

Pasta isn’t supposed to do that, I thought.

The recipe book promised it would be easy, and I was enamored of the deep wine-red color of the sleek, fresh pasta in the photograph. The ingredients couldn’t have been simpler: some flour, some semolina flour, an egg, some water and beet juice. Check. Well, except for the semolina flour. I didn’t know what that was, but I was sure that I could substitute whole-wheat flour. I had plenty of that.

So I started mixing. The pasta in the picture looked silky smooth, but mine was kind of lumpy. I didn’t have quite enough beet juice, so instead of a deep wine color, it was kind of a pale lavender. But that was okay. Lavender is pretty, right?

I started rolling the pasta out, but it was very stiff, and kind of sticky. I rolled and pushed, folded and kneaded. Finally I managed to stretch the dough as thin as it would go – about half an inch thick. Then I sliced it into long strips, just like the recipe suggested. But I didn’t want to be boring and cut it with a straight knife, so I used my fluted pastry wheel, which sliced the dough into long, wavy strips. I plopped them into a pot of boiling water and watched anxiously as they began to cook.

First they puffed up, becoming almost round, about the thickness of a pencil. Pasta isn’t supposed to do that, I thought.

Then, the lovely lavender started to fade to a sickly flesh color. My beautiful, handmade pasta looked like a pot of boiling earthworms.

I was crushed. I had always considered myself an excellent cook. There was no possible way this could be as bad as it looked.

I tried to dress it up with a butter and garlic sauce, but it still kind of looked like stewed entrails on a plate. I was so embarrassed about my failure that I couldn’t just let it go and throw it away. I served it to my poor, unsuspecting husband.

To his credit, he offered to eat it, barely blinking at the disgusting thing I’d served him for dinner. But after one bite, I took mercy and told him to throw it away.

I tried once again, a few months later. This time I had all the right ingredients, even the semolina flour. I had a pasta machine. I followed the directions to the letter, but I still managed to make a thick, goppy lump of dough. I didn’t even bother to cook that batch, just threw it away.

Now I buy my pasta dried. Someday I’ll master the art of handmade pasta, but until then, Bertolli is good enough for me.

Article © 2006 by Stacey Duck