Fusilli with Goat Cheese Pesto and Caramelized Shallots

I managed to amaze myself when, during our first week of living in the new apartment, I made several home cooked meals. Lamb chops. Pork chops. Lots of yummy roasted vegetables. I thought I was on a roll, and was totally proud that we’d managed to make it to the store. In spite that feeling of being displaced, we were still sitting down nightly to a nice family meal.

That lasted ONLY the first week.

Last week, we had takeout almost every night. We were both exhausted each day after work, as we continued to adjust to the new routine and the feel of a new place.

After painting on Saturday, we were both starving, but didn’t feel like going out.

“Do we have anything we can eat here?” Joe asked. “Even some pasta?”

“We have some pasta, but I don’t know what I’d put with it.” He looked at me forlornly. “Okay,” I said, “I’ll Macgyver something together for us.”

As often happens when you have a fridge full of random items, a hungry family, and a desperate cook, the final dish can be fantastic. I put together a sauce made from creamy goat cheese, sweet caramezlied shallots, thyme and spinach, then of course, topped the whole thing off with parmesan. It just goes to show that if you always keep a few staples around, it’s easy to put together something satisfying. Here’s how it all went down.

First things first. Get a pot of water going to boil your pasta. When making a pasta dish that has a separate sauce, it’s always easiest to have the water going, so that you can begin cooking the pasta at a moment’s notice. Otherwise, you might get too caught up in making your sauce to time the pasta cookery correctly.

You’ll also want to set your oven to 300°, so that you can toast 1/4 cup of pine nuts.

In a small saute pan, heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil over medium heat. Add in 1 medium sliced shallot, a clove or two of minced garlic, and the leaves of 2 sprigs of thyme.

Cook these slowly, so that the shallot has time to brown and caramelize. Don’t be worried if any browned bits form on the bottom of the pan. After the alliums are caramelized, add in a 1/2 cup (give or take) of white wine to deglaze the pan, and cook until reduced by about  3/4. You should only have two tablespoons worth of liquid left. (PS – Now’s a great time to throw in your pasta and put the pine nuts in the oven!)

While the liquid is reducing, put 3 oz of goat cheese and one cup of loosely packed spinach into your food processor. Once the wine has reduced, add in the reduction and all the shallots, garlic and thyme to the food processor. Blend until well combined and smooth, then transfer to a large bowl.

When the pasta is finished cooking, use a spider to transfer the noodles directly into the large bowl, on top of the goat cheese mixture. Don’t worry if you get pasta water in there — you’ll need that hot water to loosen the sauce. Under no circumstances should you drain the pasta in a colander! Toss the pasta and the sauce together, adding in some more whole fresh spinach leaves and as much pasta water as needed to get the sauce to the right consistency.

Then, pull your toasted pine nuts from the oven…

…and toss them with the pasta as well.

Garnish the pasta with some shavings of parmesan cheese and a bit of parsley. Dinner is served!