Monochromatic, Never Monotonous

In such murky, turbulent times, it’s comforting to know that some things remain clearly defined in black and white. Even through the dense fog of uncertainty, it’s easy to identify a satisfying meal when you see one. Should it be clad in an attractive range of tones that never deviate too far from one scale of the color spectrum, so much the better.

Black pasta is crowning jewel of this monochromatic treasure chest, arrestingly dark spirals twisting through a sea of contrasting produce. Though the concept would traditionally suggest that squid ink was at play, the rise in popularity of charcoal has brought a new tint onto the food scene. I can’t vouch for its “detoxing” abilities, nor do I care to test out the claims; what interests me most is the dusky onyx hue it imparts to everything it touches.

In truth, you could pair absolutely anything with those obsidian twisted noodles with equal success and beauty, but the bold visuals of pale white cauliflower and tofu feta create stunning visual appeal, and an equally stellar flavor profile. Briny kalamata olives join the party to add a salty top note, accentuating the deeper roasted flavor of the cruciferous addition and lightly caramelized onions. Pine nuts add an occasional crunch to keep every bite exciting.

Plan ahead for this meal and everything will come together quite easily. Handmade pasta is definitely a labor of love, but can be prepared well in advance to save you the struggle when the dinner hour rolls around. Trofie, my shape of choice, is a Ligurian pasta that is already vegan by nature, no eggs needed. Rolled by hand into bite-sized twirls, it requires no special machinery, but can be time-consuming to complete. Feel free to go a simpler route with basic linguine or spaghetti to save yourself the hassle. The pasta will taste just as good, and look every bite as darkly handsome.

Black Trofie Pasta

3 Cups All-Purpose Flour
2 Teaspoons Food-Grade Charcoal Powder
1 Teaspoon Salt
3/4 – 1 Cup Water

Place the flour, charcoal, and salt in a large bowl, whisking thoroughly to equally distribute the ingredients. Make a well in the center and pour 3/4 cup of water. Begin mixing the flour into the water, maintaining the well in the center as best you can. When the mixture gets too thick for a fork, drop the fork and get your hands in there to continue mixing. Drizzle in additional water as needed to incorporate all of the flour to form a cohesive dough. It should feel tacky but not sticky.

Knead on a lightly-floured surface for 8 – 10 minutes, until very smooth. Let the dough rest for an hour before proceeding, or cover with plastic wrap, place in the fridge, and let rest overnight.

To shape the noodles, first lightly flour a baking sheet and clean work surface.

Flatten the dough out into a disk and cut a strip about 1/2-inch wide. Don’t worry too much about the exact measurements, since you will next roll it into a rope about half that width. Slice it into 1/4-inch pieces.

Take one nugget at a time and rub it between your palms, creating a small cylinder with tapered ends. For extra flare, you can further twist the shapes to create ridges, but for an “authentic” trophie, you only need to rub the dough between your hands three or four times to create each noodle. Drop the finished shapes onto your awaiting baking sheet. Let the noodles rest and lightly air-dry, uncovered, for at least one hour before cooking.

The pasta will cook in boiling water in just 30 – 120 seconds (yes, seconds, not minutes!) depending on the thickness of your noodles. Stand by and taste-taste for when they’re perfectly al dente.

Makes About 1 Pound; 4 Servings

Black and White Pasta

1 Batch Black Trofie Pasta, Above

1 Head Cauliflower, Cut into Florets
1/2 Medium White Onion, Sliced
2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper

1/2 Cup Kalamata Olives, Pitted and Halved
5 Ounces Tofu Feta, Roughly Crumbled
1/4 Cup Toasted Pine Nuts

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Toss the cauliflower, onion, garlic, oil, salt, and pepper together in a large bowl until the vegetables are evenly coated. Spread everything out on your prepared baking sheet in an even layer, making sure nothing overlaps, and slide it into the hot oven. Roast for about 30 minutes, until the cauliflower is golden brown and fork-tender.

Toss the roasted vegetables together with the cooked pasta, kalamata olives, tofu feta, and pine nuts. Add in a tiny splash of the pasta cooking water if desired, to give the dish a bit more moisture. Serve immediately, while piping hot.

Makes 4 – 6 Servings

Printable Recipe

23 thoughts on “Monochromatic, Never Monotonous

  1. I saw feta and olives and was immediately interested. :-) I’ve made pasta before, mostly ravioli, but never black pasta. Could be fun and it would definitely be unexpected. :-)


  2. I can’t believe you made your own Trofie pasta! “Obsidian twisted noodles,” indeed (love that turn of phrase). So, what does the charcoal taste like?

      1. Yeah, I wouldn’t think it would be a strong taste! I think they make charcoal ice cream in japan… maybe it could work to flavour cakes and puddings, too? Without resorting to black sesame, I mean.

      2. Definitely! There’s plenty more potential for it as a natural coloring agent. Even those popular “black lemonade” concoctions being sold at some juice shops don’t taste like anything different than standard lemon juice and agave, so I have a hard time imagining a charcoal ice cream.

  3. This recipe is so inventive! I love the other ingredients you have paired it with. What does the pasta taste like with the charcoal? Can’t wait to try the Tofu Feta in this too!!!

    1. The charcoal had no discernible impact on the flavor, which is exactly what I had wanted! All color, no flavor. :) Thus, if you didn’t want to go out and get charcoal, it would be just as delicious as typical white pasta, too.

  4. “Vous”…monotonous? NEVER! Love the recipe. Charcoal was something that I was compelled to eat when I was pregnant with all of my children. Hopefully that doesn’t mean that they were all toxic!

    1. Charcoal for pregnancy? Now that’s one I hadn’t heard of! What were the supposed benefits? I’m so curious about all of this charcoal lore. Maybe I could start marketing my charcoal pasta as the new health food craze.

      1. I have no idea what the benefits were but all I know is that I HAD to eat it. It was a craving, not a prescription. In my first pregnancy, we lived in a small apartment on the second floor and I was standing on the balcony and saw the people below were having a bbq and HAD to eat some of the charcoal from the fire. I actually sent my ex husband down to the flat below to ask them if I could have some. Turns out they were using heat beads so I couldn’t eat them but that was the start. The things that women crave when they are pregnant eh? ;)

  5. I’ve seen charcoal in juices before but I haven’t tried it. Looks amazing in pasta though, the contrast is so striking. It would be fun to see charcoal in other things like baked goodies. :-)

  6. […] dirt,” is a fairly clear insult, on the other hand, although I have no qualms recommending charcoal, ash, or lava for your next meal. Still, the mental imagery of picking up a handful of soil and […]

  7. […] dirt,” is a fairly clear insult, on the other hand, although I have no qualms recommending charcoal, ash, or lava for your next meal. Still, the mental imagery of picking up a handful of soil and […]

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