Asparagus, Goat Cheese, and Lemon Pasta
Goat cheese, Where have you been all my life and why have you waited so long to reveal thine lovely self? I found myself asking this question about a year ago. Granted, Alex attempted to introduce me to a very fine and polite log of goat cheese when we were vacationing in St. Maarten 2 years ago, but alas, the Dutch water crackers that we chose to pair up with it did nothing for my taste buds nor my soul. In fact, had that been my first and last foray into goat cheese, I would have been fine by that!
Silly me. I had no idea on what I was missing out. That smooth and creamy richness with a slight tang and flavor all unto itself. Luckily, Alex in his esteemed wisdom, was not about to give up on my burgeoning relationship with chevre and surprised me one night with homemade pizza topped with goat cheese and onions. I took one look and felt a small part of my foodie soul die a little bit. “Eat that cheese? Again? But, but…there’s only goat cheese and onion on there? There’s nothing else on the plate to go to…nothing else to run and take cover to…there would be NO hiding from it! Egads noooooo!” But Alex had gone through the trouble to make me dinner and so I plucked up my courage, closed my eyes, and hoped for the best. After my first bite, I had a revelation!! Goat cheese is, in fact, super delicious! I learned that for me, goat cheese alone with crackers? Not so much. But when used in conjunction with other ingredients to accentuate, highlight and dance in a symphony of flavors? Pure genius!
Armed with this new epiphany, I opened myself, my kitchen, and my stovetop to goat cheese. We tried it on some more pizzas, we tried it in some omelettes, we tried it on top of pasta, and we tried it with green eggs and ham. All ventures yielded pretty good results, but even after a few months of searching far and wide, I still hadn’t found the “Oh man, THIS is my go-to goat cheese dish!” That is…until I chanced upon this recipe on smittenkitchen.com. I read through it and thought to myself, “goat cheese, lemon zest, asparagus, and artisan pasta? Sign me UP!” This dish turned out to be THE ONE. I’m not saying that it’s goat cheese nirvana, no, but it’s pretty darn close nonetheless. Creamy, with the fresh crisp of asparagus, coupled with a subtle sweet and slightly tart zing of lemonyness. Remember that symphony of flavors? Oh, it’s in there! 🙂
If you only have dried tarragon in your pantries, you can use it here if you’re in a pinch, but if you can get fresh tarragon, definitely do so. The fresh herb makes ALL of the difference in the world here. The sweet, slightly licorice flavor accents the citrus tones perfectly in this dish and makes a nice counterbalance to the creaminess of the cheese. What is so great about this recipe is that not only is it flavorful, it’s so easy. You can whip it up in about 15 minutes flat and have it on the table. Serve it as a side or, as we very commonly do, as the main headliner for the night.
Asparagus, Goat Cheese, and Lemon Pasta
Adapted from smittenkitchen.com
1 pound spiral-shaped pasta*
1 pound asparagus spears, trimmed, cut into 1- to 1 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
Finely grated lemon zest from 1 lemon
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 5 to 5 1/2-ounce log soft fresh goat cheese
Juice from 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook your pasta in a large pot of salted water until it is almost tender, or about three minutes shy of what the package suggests. Add asparagus and cook until firm-tender, another two to three minutes. Drain both pasta and asparagus together, reserving half a cup of pasta water.
Meanwhile, combine olive oil, lemon peel, lemon juice, tarragon and cheese in a large bowl, breaking up the goat cheese as you put it in. Add hot pasta and asparagus to bowl, along with a couple slashes of the pasta water. Toss until smoothly combined, adding more pasta water if needed. Season generously with salt and pepper.
This keeps very well in the fridge for leftovers and next day lunches. Just reheat it a smidge in the microwave to take the chill off from the cheese.
*You can use any spiral shaped pasta you’d like, but I recommend that if you can get your hands on some artisan pasta or any pasta that’s been cut with copper plates, you’ll find that it has a better texture all around and really elevates this dish into the upper stratosphere