Recipe 9: Penne with Goat Cheese and Basil

Apparently, if the Internet is to be believed (it’s always accurate, right?), this week is not only February Break (here in the US to celebrate Presidents Day), but also National Pancake Week.  If you are following me on Facebook, you may know that I have somehow stumbled upon a recipe to fit not only this blog’s purpose, but also this week-long celebration of pancakes.

This is not that recipe.

Why the tease?  Well, the recipe that combines mac, cheese, and pancakes requires leftover, already cooked macaroni – and why would I boil some macaroni without trying a recipe to go along with the rest of it?

I believe I ended up at the site for this recipe via the Facebook group for Food, Inc.  Interestingly, I have watched this and several other food/health-related documentaries, as well as read some similar books; although I have found my eyes opened (and sometimes my stomach turned) by some of the information therein, I still find myself falling back on many of my old, bad food habits.  Like eating lots of cheese.  I guess you can lead a horse to water but can’t make it drink, huh?

Penne with Goat Cheese and Basil (from TakePart’s Meatless Monday)

Ingredients

  • 12 oz. penne pasta (mine was quinoa… and elbows… gotta make do, sometimes)
  • 2 cups basil leaves (although I normally find converting to dry herbs acceptable, you really need fresh here)
  • 4 oz. goat cheese (mine was from Lively Run)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil (this is for lubrication, not really for flavor, so subbing vegetable or other oils would likely be fine.  Yes, I said “lubrication.”  *inner twelve-year old snicker*)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste (I recommend liberality here)

Directions

Cook pasta according to package directions. Arrange basil leaves in a stack, roll like a cigar and proceed to cut crosswise.  This technique is called  chiffonade (they look like little basil ribbons!).  Toss pasta with olive oil and goat cheese and let cool for a few minutes. Add basil, salt, and pepper, and then serve.

That's it. Really.

Verdict: 3/5

Seriously, this couldn’t be much easier to make.  Even if you don’t have the ingredients regularly in your pantry – I know I don’t often buy goat cheese unless I really want it – they are pretty easy to obtain at your standard supermarket.  I am also lucky in that I still have fresh basil growing on my kitchen windowsill, so one less thing for me to buy.  Everything comes together in no time flat.  I made a half-recipe and still had some leftovers.

Still, I felt there was something lacking.  I’ve talked before about my love of both basil and goat cheese in Recipe 2, and with the similar ingredients, I was nervous the flavor profile would be so alike this would have been a wasted recipe opportunity.  However, in that recipe there was also garlic, Parmesan cheese, half and half, and a breaded topping – not to mention it called for pesto rather than plain ol’ basil, all of which lent it a complex flavor.  While the tang of the goat cheese is just as pleasant as ever and the green flavor of the basil is almost reminiscent of spring, it wasn’t really enough to truly elevate the recipe to that “Oh man, that was awesome” level.  It even felt under-cheesed, so to speak, and when I warmed up the leftovers in the microwave, I added a few more goat cheese crumbles.  Despite the similar ingredients, it was very much different from my first goat cheese mac – but that one, in my opinion, is the better of the two.

Now that I have the chore of making some macaroni and turning it into a new recipe out of the way (trying new food – ohnoes!), now I can get down to the business of trying to produce the mac-and-cheese/pancake hybrid I’ve mentioned.

Edit to Add: When I warmed up the remaining leftovers, I added extra goat cheese and a little bit of pecorino; this added some extra complexity of flavor.

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