The recipe is simple enough, but the flavors are intense. The julienned beets are sautéed at high heat with the caraway seeds. Beets have a lot of moisture in them, so it takes several minutes for the slices to caramelize. But when they do, they acquire a deep, rich, earthy flavor that’s irresistible. To take that up a notch, I add some balsamic vinegar just before adding the pasta and reduce it until it glazes the beets.
The last touch is the fresh tarragon that’s tossed with the pasta. It picks up on the flavor of the caraway seeds and brightens the dish with its exquisite, fresh aromas.
*Note: The beets can be prepared up to this point and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Place the beets in a medium-sized baking dish. Fill the pan with ½-inch water. Cover tightly with foil and bake until tender, about 50-60 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool to room temperature.
Peel and julienne the beets. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.* Heat a large, nonstick heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat. Add the oil, caraway seeds, and beets. Sauté until the beets have caramelized, tossing from time to time, about 10-12 minutes. (The beet slices will lose their moisture, shrink by ½ and look very dark around the edges.) Remove from heat and keep the beets in the pan.
In a large pot, bring 6 quarts water to a boil over high heat. Then, add the salt and pasta. Cook until al dente and drain well; reserve ½ cup pasta water. Return the skillet to the stove over high heat.
When the beets begin to sizzle, add the garlic and vinegar. Sauté until the vinegar has completely evaporated and glazed the beet slices, 1 minute only. Add the pasta, reserved pasta cooking water, and fresh tarragon. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Remove from heat, add the pasta, and toss until well coated with the sauce. (It’s while tossing the pasta with the beets that the pasta acquires its gorgeous red color. You’ll marvel at how fast it happens and how intense the color is!) Spoon the pasta into bowls. Garnish with sprigs of tarragon and a little olive oil, and serve immediately.