Penne with Asparagus and Goat cheese

Emmy Cooks blogged recently about “an automatic bond among people who spend the day in serious contemplation of what to eat next”. When I read that, I realised that I am such a person, too. I also realised that I also feel this bond with my fellow food bloggers out there, even without ever having met them yet.

I don’t think about food all day, but I do care a lot about what I eat and make an effort to eat well as often as is pratical. I think this is only logical as I believe that food is something to enjoy (instead of just to stuff your stomach) and because your body is actually built from all the stuff you eat. People often ask me two things about food and cooking: (1) how can I be so thin when I eat so well, and (2) do I always put a lot of effort into cooking gourmet meals, even on weekdays. The answer to (1) is that I’m not that thin (by BMI is over 21) and that eating well in my book does not mean eating a lot. I prepare a fixed amount of food (per person 75 grams of pasta or 60 grams of rice, 200 grams of vegetables and 100-150 grams of meat or fish) and that’s all there is, no second helpings. I eat chocolate almost every day (72% dark), but that is always one square, not more. The answer to (2) is that I don’t consider it a lot of effort, as on weekdays I usually prepare dinner in less than 30 minutes.

It does help that I plan ahead: each Friday (I only work Monday thru Thursday) I sit down and decide what to eat for the upcoming week, checking first whether there is anything in the fridge that needs to be used up. I make a list of this, and since I started blogging there are usually some new things to try that I found on other blogs and some dishes that I plan to blog about. I then buy all the meat, fish, vegetables and other groceries for the whole week. So when I come home from work, I don’t need to shop or think about what I’m going to make and I can start cooking as soon as I’ve changed from my working clothes (suit & tie) into something more casual.

To give you an example, this is the list of a recent week that was quite typical in terms of the type of food we eat:

  • Friday: penne with asparagus and goat cheese as primo (see below), followed by sea bream in salt as secondo; paired with a 2009 Sancerre (French sauvignon blanc from the Loire)
  • Saturday: BBQ at a friend’s
  • Sunday: Boeuf Bourguignon; paired with a Pernand-Vergelesses (red Burgundy)
  • Monday: singing tutor so home late and thus no cooking but a sandwich
  • Tuesday: Pasta with radishes as primo, followed by leftover Japanese chicken loaf from the freezer as secondo
  • Wednesday: Pasta with cauliflower as primo, followed by pork belly sous-vide as secondo (paired with an Argentinian oaked chardonnay)
  • Thursday: Chicken Ramen sous-vide (paired with a Grüner Veltliner from old vines)

As you can see, I selected primi and secondi that could be paired with the same wine. We usually only drink wine on weekends (which start Thursday night ;-), but this time we had a guest on Wednesday and thus had a good excuse to have wine then too. I put the pork belly in the sous-vide on Sunday night and the chicken for the ramen on Wednesday night. I like cooking when I come home from work. After working with my head all day, I can relax by working with my hands. About every other week (sometimes more often) we have guests for a full-blown dinner party with at least four courses with a different bottle of matching wine with each course.

On to today’s recipe. I blogged about risotto with asparagus and goat cheese before, but my original recipe was pasta with asparagus and goat cheese. This is just as delicious, but easier and quicker to make than risotto. I love the combination of asparagus, goat cheese and Sancerre (or other dry sauvignon blanc) so much that this is always a winner. Use a tasty goat cheese for this, as it is an important factor in the success of this dish.

Ingredients

450-500 grams (1 pound) asparagus, preferably white, peeled

150 grams (1/3 pound) penne pasta

1 small onion, chopped

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 glass (100 ml) Sancerre or other dry sauvignon blanc (drink the rest of the bottle with the meal!)

100 grams (4 oz) aged soft French goat cheese, preferably raw milk such as crottin de chavignol

1 Tbsp chopped flatleaf parsley

salt and freshly ground white pepper

Preparation

Cut about 5 cm (2 inches) from the bottom of the asparagus and cut into thin slices.

Half the asparagus lengthwise and cut into chunks about the size of the penne.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add salt and asparagus. Cook for 10-15 minutes. Add penne pasta at the right time to the same pot to cook them al dente according to package instructions.

Sauté the onion in the olive oil until translucent.

Add the wine and let simmer.

Put the slices asparagus bottoms into the blender. (Slicing them is a precaution to make sure there will be no long fibers in the asparagus puree.)

Blend to obtain a puree…

…and add this puree to the onions and wine.

Stir to mix and let this simmer until it’s thick. Season with salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste.

When the pasta and asparagus are cooked, drain in a colander and add to the sauce. Add freshly grated goat cheese and chopped parsley.

Toss to mix.

Serve on warm plates, sprinkled with additional freshly grated goat cheese.

Wine pairing

It goes without saying that this is excellent with Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé or other dry sauvignon blanc (not the over-the-top tropical fruit kind).

11 thoughts on “Penne with Asparagus and Goat cheese

    1. It’s a bit of both I suppose. The lucky part is that I was able to find a job with an organization where a 36-hour working week is the norm (as is working 4 days of 9 hours). The clever part is deciding that there is no use in working harder and making more money if I have no free time to enjoy life!

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      1. Ah now 9 hour days is the pay-off so to speak. Still I would go for that option, if I had the choice. Mind you come to think of it I probably do 9 hr days anyway and still end up doing five days. And I agree, there’s no point working if you can’t find time to enjoy the fruits of your labour!

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        1. Hmmm that’s odd: your comment was marked as spam?!

          It was the same for me: working 5 days of at least 9 hours and getting paid for only 8. So this is much better. I don’t think I could’ve spent so much time cooking with a five-day working week, especially doing all the shopping can take up quite a bit of time.

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          1. Yes it makes sense. As for the spam thing. I get a lot of people saying my comments end up in spam but it seems random. And some of my posts don’t appear on the reader thing too. But if you send a query to wordpress they don’t come back so not much i can do about it i guess!

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  1. This entry tells me so much about you. Your priorities are health and good food – and you plan ahead to achieve your goals. I also eat 72% dark chocolate every day. Unlike you, I have a weakness for wine! Good for you for abstaining on weekdays. 🙂 The white asparagus and chèvre in this recipe look so flavorful and creamy. I am beginning to learn basic principles of pasta-sauces and add-ins from your blog. Thanks, Stefan!

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