I first made this pasta last week at my friend’s house. She is moving soon to start a FNP program at Johns Hopkins University (which also happens to be my father, uncle and brother’s alma mater). She had been packing up all her belongings, and mentioned that she had some fancy Capunti pasta in her pantry that she wanted to eat before moving. Between the two of us, we also had a bunch of fresh vegetables and some herbed goat cheese. I wanted to make a white sauce out of the goat cheese, so we whisked it with some olive oil to create a smoother texture. The flavors were so delicious, and quite possibly one of my best vegetarian dishes of the summer. I have since made it for MM using pasta shells, and he agrees that it is an excellent new recipe.
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 white onion, diced
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 1 zucchini, sliced into rounds
- 8 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, cut into 1/2 thick slices
- 2 TB pine nuts
- 1 cup spinach, coarsely chopped
- 2 cups of dry, good-quality pasta (use short-cut extruded pasta or decorative shapes)
- 3 oz herbed goat cheese
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp dried basil
- salt and pepper to taste
Start by boiling a pot of unsalted water for the pasta. Once boiled, add the pasta and cook for about 10 minutes, checking to make sure it’s tender but not too soft. For this type of dish you want the pasta to be a little al dente when you take it out of the water, because it will soften once the vegetables and sauce is added. Be sure to reserve about 1/2 cup of water from the pasta before draining.
Heat 2 TB of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over a medium flame. One hot, add garlic and red pepper flakes and saute until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the onions, pepper, zucchini, mushrooms, oregano, basil, salt and pepper and saute over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes. Add the pine nuts and continue to saute for another 5 minutes. Let simmer until the pasta is ready, adding the spinach right at the end so that it doesn’t wilt too much.
Meanwhile, whisk the goat cheese to further soften it. Then add about 4-6 TB of olive oil and continue to whisk into a creamy substance.
Once the pasta is ready, drain it and add a little bit of your reserved pasta water back into the pot over a low flame. Add the goat cheese mixture to the pot, and stir to combine with pasta water (add more pasta water little by little if consistency is too thick). Once you’ve reached the desired consistency, add the pasta back into the pot and toss to combine.
Transfer pasta into the skillet with all the vegetables (be sure you’ve included the spinach in the skillet before adding the pasta) and toss to combine. Serve in low pasta bowls with more red pepper flakes on the side.
Because this is a pretty rich sauce with lots of earthy vegetables, I would pair this with a medium-bodied white wine, such as a Willamette Valley Pinot Gris or Gruner Veltliner. Enjoy!