Recipe: pasta with spring vegetables and goat cheese

As a relative newbie to the world of cheese, I’m still unpacking and learning to harness the versatility of fresh goat cheese.  I had a 10.5 oz log of it sitting in my fridge on Sunday night, and after two days, half of it is gone.  I’ve been spreading it on toast for breakfast–it functions as a superior alternative to cream cheese, tangier and less processed.  In a similar vein, it’s wonderful as a spread for sandwiches in place of mayonnaise (again, superior I think).  And of course, you can’t go wrong with crumbles of goat cheese on your salads.  I also recently learned that it does wonders for a humble pasta dish. Simply add a hunk to a steaming, just-cooked bowl of pasta and keep stirring to break it up, and it essentially morphs into this creamy-ish cream sauce that adheres just right. If you’re not a fan of heavy cream sauces but like the illusion of a cream sauce, this is my gift to you: throw some goat cheese into your pasta. Along with a light squeeze of lemon and lots of pepper, and I think you’ll be pleased with the results.

Pasta with spring vegetables and goat cheese
— makes about 3 servings —

1/2 lb penne
8-10 spears asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 zucchini, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 oz. goat cheese
a squeeze of lemon
salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper

Cook the penne to al dente in salted water. During the last minute of cooking, add in the asparagus and zucchini to blanch, if desired. Drain and reserve a bit of pasta water. Immediately toss pasta and vegetables with goat cheese, stirring and breaking up the cheese until it lightly and evenly coats the pasta. Use pasta water as necessary to help make the “sauce.” Add the lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve at any temperature.

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