There is a super-easy pasta sauce that I’ve missed creating until now. I’m talking about using chevre (or goat cheese) as the creamy binder for simple pasta dishes. I’ve sampled several versions at restaurants and friends’ homes, and maybe you have, too. Some had additional protein; others did not. Asparagus, spinach, sauteed onions and carrots, a medley of peppers, and fresh herbs have all appeared in one way or another. But the one thing they all have in common is the simplicity of stirring in the cheese with a bit of pasta water, and the sauce is complete.
I think the sauce works best with short pasta, a chopped or small vegetable and a squirt of lemon to top it all off. Use today’s recipe as a jumping-off place for your own pasta creations, pulling it all together with the earthy creaminess of chevre.
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Spinach, Chicken, and Chevre Pasta
Start to finish: 20 minutes
12 ounces tricolored bowtie pasta (or plain, if you can’t find it)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into small pieces (see Cook’s note)
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
5 ounces prewashed baby spinach
5 ounces chevre
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Zest from 1 lemon
Salt and black pepper to taste
Sliced green onion, optional garnish
Cook’s note: If you purchase thinly sliced boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, you will not have to make as many cuts. If you have a large, single chicken breast, slice horizontally in half to make smaller pieces.
Cook the pasta according to package directions.
While the pasta is cooking, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium. Cook, stirring constantly, chicken, onion, garlic, and Italian seasoning until chicken is no longer pink and onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low; top chicken mixture with spinach and cover to steam until spinach is wilted, about 3 minutes.
When pasta is done, drain carefully, reserving 1 cup of pasta cooking water. Set aside. In a large pasta bowl, combine the chevre, 1/2 cup pasta water, lemon juice, and zest. Stir to break up cheese until creamy. Add chicken-spinach mixture and pasta, and toss to coat well. Add up to 1/2 cup more pasta water, if needed, to distribute the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve. Garnish with green onion, if desired.
Yield: 6 servings
Approximate values per serving: 442 calories, 14 g fat (5g saturated), 93 mg cholesterol, 34 g protein, 46 g carbohydrates, 3 g dietary fiber, 178 mg sodium.