Too Tasty to Be Pasta Salad: Asparagus and Goat Cheese Pasta
I have a problem with goat cheese. When it is in my house, I have difficulty not consuming all of it at once. You know that woman who consumed nothing but pop (in addition to smoking like crazy)? Well, first of all, as a diet pop connoisseur, I panicked when I read all of those headlines, until I realized just how much 2 gallons of pop is. Short answer: it is far more than the 2 – 4 cans of Diet Dr. Pepper I often drink on a busy day. Second of all, and to the real point–I could live like that, on one “food” all day, everyday, if it were cheese and crackers.
Anyway, after seeing this dish featured on Smitten Kitchen, I have made it many times over the past couple of years, including this Sunday. Due to my extreme love of cheese, all I needed to know was that it had goat cheese in it, and I had to make it. All I need to know these days is that it has asparagus, and the beloved carnivore actually likes asparagus quite a bit. As a result, this dish is both delicious and an efficient vegetable/nutrient delivery system.
Unlike pasta dishes that use parmesan, pecorino, or other cheeses that are more commonly paired with pasta, this pasta dish is a bit on the dryer, less creamy side. It’s still creamy, but it is not as though the pasta is covered in a sauce.
Another note – I like it with a good bit of lemon, but the beloved carnivore likes it with less lemon. It is really a matter of personal taste, though I’ll note that I think you’re better off cutting some of the lemon zest out than cutting out the lemon juice. Hilariously, I made this for my husband’s grandparents and sister before I found out his sister does not like lemon. I felt bad about that, but she was okay, she just put barbecue sauce on it. Actually, as I found out later, she puts barbecue sauce on pretty much everything. I guess barbecue sauce is to her what goat cheese is to me (Now I know what to get you for Christmas, Lisa – a case of barbecue sauce. Kidding!).
Asparagus and Goat Cheese Pasta
Adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen
- 1 pound short pasta (rotini and similar shapes work best)
- 1 pound asparagus
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 6 oz goat cheese (a 5 oz log works fine, but why not get a 10 oz log, use 6 oz, and have leftovers? mmmm. also, don’t get pre-crumbled cheese, which does not melt as easily)
- 2 tsp tarragon, chopped finely
- lemon zest, to taste (zest of 1/2 lemon for his dudeness, zest of 1 lemon for me)
- 1 -2 TBSP lemon juice
- salt and pepper, to taste
Get a big pot of water boiling.
Chop the tarragon, zest the lemon, juice the lemon. Clean the asparagus and cut it into spears that are about 1 to 1 1/2 inches long – this part of the process will go faster if you have the beloved carnivore hanging around asking what he can do to help. As that conversation so often goes, I first said “Oh, I’m fine, thanks. Oh wait, could you get out the olive oil? Oh, and could you clean and cut the asparagus? Oh, and can you drain the pasta?”
Measure out 1/4 cup of olive oil in a liquid measuring cup. Add in the goat cheese, breaking it up a bit with your hands as you add it in. Then add the lemon peel, lemon zest, tarragon, salt, and pepper. Stir/whisk vigorously with a fork several times to mix everything together. Set this mixture aside.
Boil your pasta for about 5 minutes. (Deb says “three minutes shy of what the package suggests,” so for rotini and similar shapes, this will usually be about 5 minutes). Add in the asparagus, and boil for another two to three minutes, until the pasta is al dente and the asparagus is somewhat tender when pierced with a fork. Do not let the asparagus get too tender; you still want it to have a little bit of “bite” or small resistance to fork-piercing. Drain the pasta, reserving at least a cup of pasta water. I use the same method I use when making cacio e pepe – I reserve some pasta water in a measuring cup in case it is needed, then keep the lid on the pasta pot and turn the pot at a tilt over the kitchen sink, letting as much of the remaining water as possible drain out.
Add the olive oil/goat cheese mixture to the pasta and stir and toss the pasta until the goat cheese is fully melted and the pasta is fully coated with all the yummy deliciousness. Add the reserved pasta water in small batches, as needed, to thin the “sauce.”
Leftovers should be heated slowly with a touch of water, stirring frequently, or the leftovers can be eaten cold (I like it both ways).