It Was Cold and I Wanted Pasta: Penne with Spicy Goat Cheese and Hazelnut Pesto

My love affair with New York has hit a bump. It has nothing to do with New York, really, just living up North. It gets very dark very early now that we’ve set our clocks back. I leave school at 5 o’clock and it’s almost completely dark out. How depressing!

Plus tonight it was cold. The air was stinging a bit. If life were a novel, this would be the foreshadowing–winter is fast approaching. What will I do in those bitter months when the darkness and coldness overwhelm me? Who will I turn to?

I know… Mario Batali!

Tonight I cracked open his “Simple Italian Cooking” and found a scrumptious and easy looking recipe for Penne with Spicy Goat Cheese and Hazelnut Pesto. It required 2 cups of basil so I worried the store wouldn’t have it now that summer is over. But I was wrong. They did have basil. They just didn’t have hazelnuts. So I subbed walnuts. It was only a quarter of a cup, anyway, and I don’t think it made a huge difference.

Actually, it brought to mind a golden nugget of wisdom I gleaned from a random Julia Child episode I caught. She said, “A real chef doesn’t stop a recipe just because they’re missing an ingredient or they louse up a step. It’s about working with what you have.” (I worded that myself, but the spirit is the same).

So walnuts it was.

As for the basil, I washed it in the sink but sinced I didn’t have a salad spinner I had to dry it on layer upon layer of paper towels. I really should by a salad spinner:


Here’s the recipe with photographs. If you still have basil around you, I highly recommend it. Came out great.

First make the Hazelnut Pesto.


2 cups fresh Basil leaves, lightly packed, washed and spun dry.

2 garlic cloves.

1 tsp hot red pepper flakes.

1/4 cup hazelnuts.

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil.


Place the basil, garlic, red pepper flakes and hazelnuts in a food processor…


and pulse 3 times to start the chopping process. Turn the machine on and drizzle in the olive oil in a thin stream. Season with salt.


PART TWO requires:

8 oz. penne

the pesto


4 oz fresh soft Goat Cheese (preferably Coach farm, at room temperature)

Bring about 6 quarts of water to a boil and add about 2 Tbs of salt.

Cook the penne according to package instructions until tender but still al dente, and drain well. Transfer the pesto to a 12 to 14-inch saute pan. Whisk in the cheese until smooth. Toss the penne into the pesto mixture and stir together over very low heat for 1 minute, until thoroughly coated. Pour into a warm serving dish and serve.


The perfect antidote to a winter that hasn’t come yet.

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