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How to Make Pasta and Spinach with Onion and Goat Cheese “Sauce”

Whole wheat pasta and spinach with onion and goat cheese sauce

Because of work, Lindsay has been out of the country for four weeks. I haven’t mentioned it because I was afraid that once we posted about it, it would give me an easy excuse to let things go in the kitchen (and on the blog). In the end, I kept cooking. Very few of my meals were eaten out or ordered in. I’m confident that I can keep it up for one last week, so now the cat’s out of the bag.

As for the blog, I did have the dual problems of needing to cook half as often (leftovers!), and the fact that, when left to my own devices, I tend to cook recipes that I have made before (and that we have posted already). We also changed seasons. While I got good at making dark days dishes, we’ve already posted our best and easiest dark days recipes. Then, after about two weeks, leafy greens came back into season. It’s taken some time for me to remember what to do with them. I’ve eaten a lot of boring salads and straight up sautes, but nothing that I even thought to take pictures of. We were so good with greens last summer, so stay tuned!

Lindsay is the menu planner. I don’t flip through cookbooks and dog-ear them. I pick recipes that I know work and where I already have an expectation of the results. When I wing it, it tends not to be anything worth writing about. Part of the reason I enjoy writing this blog is because it pushes my comfort zone. That’s what we hope to do for others. If we can help you pick your menu, and visual the results AND then we’ve done a service.

This recipe is an example of my improved on-the-fly cooking. I pieced it together from what was in the cupboard. It was fast, easy, and delicious. Give it a try, or make up a version for yourself. Sorry for the vagueness in the measurement amounts. Like I said, I pieced it together from what was on hand and used things up rather than measuring all of them. And I didn’t have the extra hands to take as many pictures as I normally do, which means fewer, and blurrier pictures.


Whole Wheat Pasta and Spinach with Onion and Goat Cheese “Sauce”

Makes 2-3 servings

Ingredients:

Amount Ingredient Preparation Where we bought it
(* Union Sq. Greenmarket)
1 bunch Spinach Norwich Meadows *
1 – 2 cups Whole wheat penne (dried) This recipe actually works better with dried than fresh pasta
2 Yellow onions Thinly sliced (I used 1 large, 1 small) Paffenroth Gardens *
2 Shallots Sliced into rings Paffenroth Gardens *
4 – 8 cloves Garlic Minced Keith’s Farm *
1 handful Dried porcini mushrooms Optional, or you can substitute fresh
1 – 2 TBsp Goat cheese I used plain Chevre Patches of Star Dairy *
1 – 2 TBsp Olive oil
0.25 – 0.5 cups Reserved pasta water Remember to save some of the water that you cook the pasta in!

 

Directions:

The key to this recipe is the “sauce.” I put that in quotation marks because it isn’t really a sauce, it just a mix of heavily caramelized aromatics (the onions and stuff) with melted goat cheese and a dash of pasta water and oil. The “sauce” lightly coats the pasta and makes it tasty without being too heavy or unhealthy. It helps to use whole wheat pasta, because it gives the dish more flavor.

  1. The one ingredient that I had to buy when I thought of this recipe was the cheese. You want to use very soft, spreadable cheese that will have a liquid texture when melted that will blend into the sauce. A lot of other cheeses would glob up. I went with plain goat’s milk Chevre.

    Start by soaking the mushrooms (if using dried). If you put them in water when you start, that should be enough time. The mushrooms are optional, and you could use fresh mushrooms, but in the recipe I think dried porcinis work best, plus we always have some in the fridge because they store so well.

    Chevre goat cheeseSoaking the porcini mushrooms

  2. Chop the aromatics. I used a leftover bulb of garlic that had a lot of tiny cloves, and I used the only two onions I had. I added the shallots to make up for the tiny onion. You can’t have too many aromatics in this recipe; they are what make it work.

    For the onions, cut them into shards. The best way to visualize this is to picture cutting a globe in half from the North to South pole. Then turn the globe a few degrees and do it again. Repeat until you’ve done it all the way around. Don’t actually cut it this way because it would be unsafe. Cut it in half first at the equator and work flat on the cutting board. You’ll get shorter shards, but you’ll still have all your fingers. When you’re done, all the internal layers of the onion should fall apart, leaving you with many shards. If not, give it a little muscle.

    Mince the garlic. If you use shallots, put a few slices through them to cut them into rings.

    Two onions (one large, one medium), two shallots, and some garlicChopped onions, shallots, and garlic

  3. Once the onions are prepped, start the pasta. I used 2 cups of dry whole whole wheat penne, but in retrospect, given the amount of spinach I had on hand, I would only use 1 cup. Or, use more spinach than I did.

    Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Then add the pasta and let it boil fiercely for about 8 minutes. You want to take it off the heat when it’s still a little firm (al dente) because it’s going to continue to cook more later. Drain the pasta but bet sure to save at least 0.5 cup of the water.

    Cooking pastaA "fierce" boil

  4. Add 1 – 2 TBsp of olive oil to a cast iron skillet and add the aromatics. Cook them while the pasta cooks and the mushrooms soak, until they are nicely browned and caramelized.

    Caramelizing the "aromatics" in olive oil

  5. Once both the pasta and the aromatics are done, keep the heat on and add the spinach to the skillet, plus a dash of salt and pepper. Cook the spinach only just until wilted, as in the picture below. Like I said, I added too much pasta for this amount of spinach. Stir everything together to spread the oil and the aromatics.

    At this point, add the pastaNext time I would add half as much pasta (or twice as much spinach)

  6. Add about 0.25 cups of the reserved pasta water. Give it all a good stir. Add 1 – 2 TBsp of the goat cheese and stir everything around. The cheese will start to melt and incorporate. Add some more pasta water, a little at a time, until there is just enough “sauce” to coat the pasta with a light film. You don’t want it watery, so be sparing with the water.

    1 - 2 TBsp of Chevre addedChevre incorporated into the "sauce"

Enjoy!

Whole what pasta and spinach with onion and goat cheese sauce

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