A couple weeks ago, I had a fantastic warm asparagus salad at a nearby restaurant, one I immediately swore I’d make at home. It had segments of white and green asparagus tossed with goat cheese and a tarragon and lemony mint vinaigrette and it was piled on a bed of red endive, my favorite. It was stunning. It was delicious. Alas, this is not it. What a tease I am, right?
After trying and failing to find all three elements — the green asparagus, white asparagus and the red endive — for the next two weeks, I gave up. Oh, and sure, you could use all green asparagus and regular pale endive, but you’ve met me, right? I’m a pain in the butt and without the visual, it was going to be no fun at all for me. It would not do.
But this did, for now at least. It was getting late and I still didn’t know what to make for dinner, only that I wanted it to take no time at all because sometimes you look so hard for dinner inspiration, you sap all of your cooking energy en route. This had six ingredients. It took perhaps fifteen minutes to make. And oh, it’s not as pretty and colorful, but it was a good, quick dinner, one I think is amenable to a zillion different variations and that trumps red endive any day.
Asparagus, Goat Cheese and Lemon Pasta
Adapted from Bon Appetit
As it turns out, goat cheese makes a really great quick, creamy pasta sauce. And whether you blanch your pasta with asparagus or you swap in fava beans or string beans or seriously, you name it, this comes together so quickly that I forgave it for not winning any beauty contests.
1 pound spiral-shaped pasta
1 pound slender asparagus spears, trimmed, cut into 1- to 1 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel
2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon plus more for garnish
1 5- to 5 1/2-ounce log soft fresh goat cheese (the pre-crumbled stuff will not melt as well)
Fresh lemon juice to taste (optional)
Cook your pasta in a large pot of well-salted water until it is almost tender, or about three minutes shy of what the package suggests. Add asparagus and cook until firm-tender, another two to three minutes. Drain both pasta and asparagus together, reserving one cup of pasta water.
Meanwhile, combine olive oil, lemon peel, tarragon and cheese in a large bowl, breaking up the goat cheese as you put it in. Add hot pasta and asparagus to bowl, along with a couple slashes of the pasta water. Toss until smoothly combined, adding more pasta water if needed. Season generously with salt and pepper, and lemon juice if you feel it needs a little extra kick. (We did.)