Sometimes, you just want something fast. Something easy. Something really simple, if you will.
I’d already loaded up on zucchini, my current heavy-rotation vegetable, on my last grocery run; goat cheese was on sale, so I picked up a log at the same time without any real use for it in mind. Such impulse shopping was not in vain.
I clipped this recipe last June, mainly because there was something appealing about the idea of such a quick sauce—a mixture of cheese, hot pasta, and its cooking water. As intriguing as I found the concept to be, I wasn’t entirely optimistic about the execution; I haven’t had the best of luck with Real Simple recipes in the past. They tend to be a bit too simple (read: bland) for my tastes, so I kept this one on the shelf until my grocery-shopping karma made it impossible to ignore any longer.
In this case, I needn’t have worried. Without deviating from the magazine’s mandate, I did pump it up just a bit with the addition of a handful of mushrooms, an onion, and a few pieces of that omnipresent leftover roast chicken, but it still only took about half an hour to make. It was lighter than an alfredo, the goat cheese melting into creamy oblivion and clinging to each crevice of the whole-wheat noodles, with a few pieces crumbled over the top for extra tang. The barely sautéed vegetables and a sprinkling of lemon zest brought warmer weather to mind—this would be perfect with a glass of crisp white wine on a warm summer evening.
I needed the reminder: Sometimes, the simplest things really are the most satisfying.
Pasta with Zucchini and Goat Cheese
Adapted from Real Simple, June 2008
12 ounces (¾ of the box) whole-wheat rotini
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped finely
1 pound zucchini, sliced into thin half-moons
5 cremini mushrooms, sliced thin
kosher salt and pepper
1 clove garlic, chopped
5 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, drain the pasta, and return it to the pot.
2. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook 1 minute, or until starting to soften. Add the zucchini, mushrooms, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are tender and any liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook 1 minute more.
3. Add all but 2 tablespoons of the cheese to the pasta. Add the reserved pasta water, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Stir until creamy. Serve the pasta topped with the zucchini, lemon zest, and the remaining cheese.