Flash in the Pan

Dinner party like a farm star

Recipe: carrot pasta


Many of my favorite recipes come from the kitchens of farmer friends. There’s a pleasing elegance to farm cookery. It’s a cuisine forged by the circumstances of a land-based lifestyle, yet it makes total sense in the home kitchens of anyone who wants to serve healthy, plant-based food — and lots of it. Farm cuisine is simple to prepare and able to tame the kind of hunger that follows a day of hard work.

Farm cooks pass around recipes like heirloom seeds. Each new kitchen is a pristine habitat in which one recipe can evolve into another. Among farmers, the DNA of a recipe can be conveyed in broad strokes. But, as in a game of telephone, missing information can be replaced by an active imagination, which is what accounts for the differences between my friends Josh and Luci’s carrot pasta recipes.

Carrot pasta epitomizes what a farm cook might prepare in the winter, but carrots are always in season, which makes this a go-to dish any time of year.  Rich, sweet and full of fat and carbs, carrot pasta is what a human being longs to eat.

Josh first showed me the recipe, which he learned from Luci during a short phone conversation. Luci had learned it from her sister’s second ex-husband, Ernesto, who learned it from his mom in Milan.

Knowing Josh and Luci as well as I do, it was fun to see how their differing personalities and circumstances shaped different versions of the same recipe.

Josh had no prep cook but a full cleanup crew. These circumstances allowed him to tornado through the kitchen, which combined well with the fact that he was in more of a hurry. Less detail-oriented, his improv game was as fluid as a jazz soloist.

Luci was more of a craftsman in the kitchen — and a stickler to what did and did not fly. When she needed a chopper, she roped in anyone within shouting range — which was quite a large area. By that time, Josh, all by his lonesome with a podcast, had already grated a load of carrots in a Cuisinart.

Carrot pasta

This recipe includes both Josh’s and Luci’s renditions of carrot pasta. They are two sides of a similar coin, two data points on a graph of carrot pasta. Your job is to triangulate these two recipes to fit your lifestyle.  

Serves four

  • 1 pound pasta (“Big noodles, like rigatoni, work better than skinny noodles that stick together, like angel hair,” Josh said)
  • 3 pounds peeled carrots, grated or sliced into thin coins
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil (Josh uses more than a cup but skips the cream later on, probably because he doesn’t have a cow)
  • 2 tablespoons butter (a rare point of agreement)
  • 1 hot pepper, sliced in half, which Luci adds “at some point”
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, pressed, minced or crushed
  • 6 ounces grated Parmesan, Romano or a blend of both
  • 1 cup heavy cream (if you have a cow or know where to get some cream)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Optional: chopped anchovies to taste
  • Garnish suggestion: parsley

Cook the carrots in a skillet on low heat with 1/2 cup of olive oil. Josh cooks his grated carrots for about 30 minutes, stirring often. Luci cooks her coins for two to three hours, stirring occasionally, until they nearly disintegrate.

The carrots will release water as they cook down and may spend some time submerged until the water cooks off. About 90 minutes in, when the carrot slices taste faintly like artichoke hearts, add 3/4 of the cheese, the butter, half the garlic and the hot pepper and anchovies if using. Let it slowly caramelize with the lid on, stirring every 20 minutes or so. If it starts to solidify, add another cup of water and cover until the cheese dissolves.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the noodles. Drain and, while still piping hot, toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the other half of the garlic. Set aside.

When the carrots and cheese have melted together, add the cream if using, plus the salt and black pepper. Mix but don’t homogenize. Luci’s husband called me to make sure I understood this.

“When the carrot coins have almost turned into a paste, at the very end, you add the cream,” he said. “It’s like when you add milk to hot cereal but don’t totally mix it. The oil is floating on the cream, and the cream isn’t integrated.” 

Toss the noodles in the sauce. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top, garnish with something green and serve.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

Connect with us