Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Nutty Goat Cheese Penne

I had this recipe saved for a long time in one of my many "recipes to try" collections. At first, it sounds kind of crazy: who puts nuts in pasta? I mean, I suppose pine nuts go in pesto, and sometimes you'll find them in pasta primavera mixes, but who puts walnuts in pasta?  Then I thought about how much I love cashews on my salads.  Seriously, if you've never tried it, swap the bag of croutons for two tablespoons of cashews and finely mince them on a cutting board before topping your salad with them. Delicious.  You may never eat croutons again.  So, a few weeks ago (perhaps several months at this point), I decided to give this recipe a try.

Nutty Goat Cheese Pasta (from Good Housekeeping)

1 box pasta (~14.5 oz.)*
1 pound frozen peas
1 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 c. walnuts, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
6 oz. goat cheese, softened
1 c. reserved pasta water (since I frequently forget if it's not in the ingredients list)
Salt and pepper

*I used penne, because that's what I keep in my house (if you hadn't already figured that out). The original recipe called for shells. I really like this with the Barilla Plus pasta, because it has a slightly nutty flavor to it that really melds with the walnuts.

Fill a saucepan or stockpot with water and heat to boiling. Add a teaspoon of garlic salt to the water once it is boiling. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Add the peas when there are two minutes left so that they cook in the water with the pasta. Remember to reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.

Meanwhile, in a medium-sized skillet, heat the olive oil until it is shimmery and a droplet of water skitters across the pan.  Saute the garlic and walnuts until toasted and golden. They should smell delicious. Stir in a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

Remember to reserve your pasta water (are you sensing a theme?). Return the drained pasta and peas to the pot.  Stir in the cup of pasta water, the goat cheese, salt, and pepper. I find that the goat cheese melts more easily if you stir it in as chunks or dollops rather than the entire log. Top with the garlic and walnut mixture. 

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