This is another excellent concept from Jeremy Fox, chef of Napa’s Ubuntu, which is a much-buzzed-about new vegetarian restaurant. The silky carrot puree is a replacement for the usual fatty cream sauce. I prefer this version to the usual bland mac ‘n cheese. I changed the recipe a little to pump up the flavors.
1 small onion, chopped
2 T olive oil
3/4 pound carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
½ cup white wine
1 small container fresh carrot juice
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 cups penne rigate (9 ounces)
3-4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (1 1/2 cups)
1 tablespoon chopped mint or tarragon
Freshly ground white pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350°. Heat oil in a skillet, add the onions and cook until soft – a couple of minutes. Add the carrots and cook an additional 4 minutes. Add wine and cook until liquid is evaporated. Add carrot juice and simmer until the carrots are very soft, about 30 minutes. Add the garlic and stir briefly. Transfer the carrots and any liquid to a blender and puree until very smooth. The mixture should be thick, not watery. If it’s too thin, reduce on the stove.
- Meanwhile, in a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta.
- Return the pasta to the pot. With the heat off, add the carrot puree, then ¾ of the cheese, stirring until the pasta is coated with a thickened sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the chopped herbs.
- Transfer the pasta to a medium baking dish and top with the remaining cheese. Bake until the cheese is melted and lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.