Carrot Pasta Sauce with Fusilli

Recipe and photo contributed by Annelies Zijderveld Yield:  4 servings
Prep Time:  20 minutes Cook Time:  30 minutes

Carrot Pasta Sauce with Fusilli

If you have never eaten brown rice pasta, now is your chance. As a whole-grain enthusiast, I am all for pasta made from semolina, but want to paint with a wider palette. After testing multiple brands, the one I repeatedly turn to is Jovial. We used a 12-ounce box of their fusilli, which shone in this recipe. Also, you will make more sauce than necessary for this dish. I like to freeze half the sauce to defrost in the dead of winter for an easy weeknight entree. If you choose to include the Carrot Top Pesto as a garnish, please note that it contains tree nuts.


8 to 10 carrots, cut in thin rounds (about 4 cups)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

½ leek, washed well and sliced into half-moons (about ½ cup, see Kitchen Tip)

1 teaspoon dried tarragon

¼ teaspoon salt

12 ounces gluten-free fusilli, Jovial brand preferred

2 cups plus 6 tablespoons of pasta water if needed

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Carrot Top Pesto (optional)


  1. Steam the carrots in a medium-sized steamer (see Kitchen Tip) for about 10 minutes, until fork-tender. Meanwhile, fill a stockpot three-fourths full of water, cover, set over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil.
  2. Set a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-low heat for 1 minute. Drizzle in the olive oil and swirl until it makes the pan shimmer. Add the onion and leek. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 8 minutes, until translucent. Stir in the tarragon. Drain the carrots, reserving the steaming pan (without the water). Add the carrots to the oil in the pan, stirring to coat. Transfer the carrots, leeks, onions, and as much of the olive oil as possible into the pot used to steam the carrots. Set over low heat.
  3. Place the fusilli into the boiling water and cook according to the package instructions. Once the pasta is cooked, use a slotted spoon to transfer it to a large serving bowl, reserving the pasta water.
  4. Transfer half the carrot mixture to a blender or food processor, add 1 cup of the pasta water, and blend until mostly smooth with a little bit of chunkiness. Transfer to a container and repeat the process with the remaining carrot mixture and another cup of pasta water. If it still seems too chunky, stir in the remaining 6 tablespoons of pasta water a little at a time, if needed. Toss half of the sauce with the noodles and serve with a side dish of Carrot Top Pesto, if using. You can refrigerate the rest of the sauce, covered, for up to 3 days. You can also freeze the sauce, sealed in an airtight container, for up to 1 month.

Kitchen Tips

From the Test Kitchen:

  1. This sauce will also work well with regular pasta.
  2. To steam the carrots, pour enough water into a saucepan so that the depth is 1 to 2 inches. Nestle the steamer basket into the pot. The bottom of the basket should not touch the water. If it does, pour some of the water out; you want your vegetables to be exposed to the steam but not cooked in water. Set the over pot and steamer basket over high heat and bring to a boil. When you see steam, add the carrots, cover and reduce the heat to medium. Cook as specified in the recipe.
  3. If you haven’t cooked with leeks before, you need to know a few things: they’re delicious, but they absorb an amazing amount of soil as they grow, so you’ll need to wash them extremely well. If your recipe calls for cutting the leeks in circles or half circles, remove the tough green outer leaves and root ends of the leeks. Cut them in half lengthwise and then crosswise in half-circles. Fill a bowl with water, place the leeks into it and wash well, separating the interior layers with your fingertips. Keep washing until they are perfectly clean; the dirt should fall to the bottom of the bowl while the leeks float to the surface. Lift the leeks out of the bowl and set aside. (Don’t drain by pouring the water out of the bowl over them or you will be pouring the dirt back onto them.) Rinse the bowl thoroughly, fill with water, return the leeks to the bowl and soak until you are ready to use them. Soaking leeks for half an hour—after you wash them—makes them a little milder; they are a member of the onion family, after all.

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