[Eating Rainbow | Orange | Carrots]
Carrots, unlike more intimidating vegetables like kale and Brussels sprouts, have always been an easy veggie to love. Even as an adult, whenever I think of the slender orange root vegetable, I almost immediately envision Bugs Bunny chomping into a particularly crunchy specimen while chirping, “What’s up, Doc?”
That silly, open-mouth-chewing rabbit did much for the reputation of the carrot amongst the pre-school demographic — myself included. While I would usually dispose of the turkey sandwich my mom packed for my lunch during those formative years, I always happily polished off the carrots that were tucked inside next to it.
Before digging into the cookies, of course.
My carrot-noshing habits have continued into adulthood, but these days I associate carrots with a lot more than a wise-cracking cartoon character.
The orange root vegetable that must be peeled prior to eating (unless one is a rabbit and is unconcerned about the consumption of dirt) is a nutritional powerhouse. Not only is it the best plant source of vitamin A, a group of compounds that play an important role in vision, bone growth and immunity, carrots provide an excellent source of falcarinol, a natural compound that has been shown to inhibit the development of many types of cancer. Carrots are also one of the best sources of compound beta-carotene, a nutrient that can help protect the skin against damage from sun exposure.
What’s up, Doc, indeed.
While I’ve heard about sneaking carrots into tomato sauce for picky kids who don’t want to eat their side of steamed veggies (kids these days don’t watch nearly enough Looney Tunes), I say just skip the tomatoes entirely and make a sauce of strictly carrots.
With a little cheese thrown in there for adequate “bone health,” of course.
Topped off with walnuts and optional golden raisins for an added burst of sweetness, this fusilli with carrot and mascarpone sauce is hearty, healthy and sure to please even the timidest of tongues.
In fact, I’m kind of bugging out over it. This pasta is what’s up, Doc.
Fusilli with Carrot Mascarpone Sauce
4 ounces whole wheat fusilli or other spiral-shaped pasta
3 carrots, chopped into ½ inch slices (approximately 2 cups)
3 cloves garlic
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons Parmesan Reggiano cheese, grated
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
½ cup chicken broth
½ cup reserved pasta water
2 teaspoons olive oil
Salt, pepper to taste
¼ cup walnuts, toasted
Golden raisins, optional
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place carrots in glass baking dish and toss with 1 teaspoon of olive oil, salt and pepper. Place garlic cloves in same dish and roast together until garlic is tender, approximately 15-20 minutes. Remove garlic, stir carrots, and continue roasting until carrot pieces can be easily pierced with a fork, an additional 15-20 minutes.
While carrots are roasting, heat large frying pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the remaining teaspoon of olive oil, swirling it to coat the entire surface of the pan. Add the onions and saute over medium to medium low hit, stirring frequently, until the onions are caramelized and come together in a some what gooey, jam-like clump (approximately 20-25 minutes).
Combine roasted carrots with the roasted garlic, mascarpone, Parmesan, ginger, nutmeg, and chicken broth. Using either a food processor, blender or immersion blender, puree the ingredients until they form a sauce. Note: The final product will have some texture to it — it will not be perfectly smooth.
Prepare fusilli in a large pot of salted water according to package instructions, taking care to not let it go past “al dente” since the pasta will cook more when mixed with the sauce. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water, then drain.
Return fusilli to the pot and add the onions, and carrot and mascarpone sauce, to taste (you may not need all of it). Cook together over medium heat until pasta is well-coated with sauce and onions. Add pasta water as needed to help thin the sauce to desired preference.
When well-combined, serve immediately. Top with toasted walnuts and optional raisins for an additional burst of sweetness.
Health Benefits of Carrots
- Best plant source of vitamin A, a group of compounds that play an important role in vision, bone growth, reproduction, cell division, cell division, and regulation of the immune system.
- Also one of the best sources of vitamin A carotenoid beta-carotene, a nutrient that can help protect the skin against damage from sun exposure.
- An excellent source of falcarinol, a natural compound that has been shown to inhibit the development of many types of cancer.
- Contains soluble fiber which helps lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels.