A Valentine Supper: Pasta with Truffle Butter

Few dishes evoke luxury so easily.  There are truffle butters on the market that you can purchase but the easiest way to prepare this dish is to simply stir a bit of white truffle oil into softened unsalted butter.  It keeps beautifully in the fridge.  You may use fresh or dried pasta, filled or plain.  Delicate half-moons of cheese-filled fresh agnolotti would be divine, as would a dried pasta, such as cappellini, also known as angel hair. If you don't want to wait until Valentine's Day to eat this, simply have it tonight for a pre-Valentine supper.  That's pretty romantic. Follow with the gorgeous ruby beets below and get an early start.  Champagne, anyone? 9 ounces fresh or dried pasta 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature 1/2 teaspoon white truffle oil 1-1/2 ounce piece Parmigiano-Reggiano 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add pasta and cook according to package directions (depending on the shape and size of the pasta or whether it is fresh or dried). Cut butter into small pieces and place in a large bowl with truffle oil.  When just tender (al dente), drain pasta very well, shaking dry.  Add to the bowl.  Toss until butter melts; add salt and pepper to taste.  Grate cheese with microplane; scatter on top, then top with thyme leaves.  Serves 4 Ruby Beets with Balsamic Syrup, Mint & Walnuts This recipe, adapted from Radically Simple can be successfully made with small canned beets or beets you roast yourself.  There were some large gorgeous specimens in the farmers market this weekend.  The radical idea here is my balsamic syrup, which adds a level of elegance to the earthy root.  Vibrant bits of mint, preferably spearmint, tie all the flavors together.  This can be served slightly warm, room temperature or chilled.

1 cup walnut halves 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar 2 medium garlic cloves 2 (14-ounce) cans small beets, drained well 2 tablespoons olive oil 3/4 cup coarsely chopped mint 4 ounces firm goat cheese, coarsely crumbled

Lightly toast the walnuts in a small skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Remove from the pan and set aside.  Put the vinegar in the skillet; add 1 clove garlic pushed through a press.  Bring to a boil; boil until reduced to 3 tablespoons.  Cut the beets in half; put in a large bowl.  Add the reduced vinegar and walnuts.  Put the oil in a small bowl; add the remaining garlic clove pushed through a press.  Toss the garlic oil with the beets.  Add salt and pepper.  Transfer to a small platter and top with the mint and goat cheese.  Serves 4