cavatappi with chèvre, arugula + walnuts.

cavatappi with chèvre, arugula + walnuts. | a periodic table

I love the first few days of January, but not for reasons you’d expect. There’s something magic that happens in those first days of the year – days where the rush and crush of the holiday has subsided but you’ve yet to dive back into work – that can restore your soul if you let it.

After our family departs back to their homes and Mr. Table goes back to work, the Wee One generally has a day or two left on her winter break. Try as I may to rush headlong into my New Years’ resolutions, I simply can’t: she’s here, and so we simply putter around the house, existing in a quiet little vacuum of midwinter. Fires blaze, blankets get snuggled into, another lazy midday round of Catan or Ticket to Ride is played, and time seems to stop all around us. As someone who thrives on accomplishing tasks and burning my way through post-its, no one is more surprised than me to find these uneventful, list-less days more restorative than any headlong dive into January 1st goals ever was.

Our January so far has been brutally cold: I can’t say I hate it, because given the choice between 0˚F and 100˚F, I’ll take 0˚F any day of the week. I like layering clothing and sitting in front of a fireplace and glancing out the window to see remnants of snow on my lawn while I work. I’m still wearing my scarf as I type this because I want to: it makes me feel cozy, much like this little beauty of a dish right here.

cavatappi with chèvre, arugula + walnuts. | a periodic table

Friends, those of you that know me know I relish a healthy-eating plan for January: it’s a chance to reset my body and maybe pare down the sugar which exists in my body post-holiday treats season. This year, though, I didn’t find myself really gorging on anything particularly horrid: sure, cookies happened, and sometimes at inappropriate times (although I maintain that almond cookies sandwiched with raspberry jam are just an alternative version of granola), but mostly, I ate nice things. I made a spectacular beef tenderloin, lots of roasted vegetables, these panko-crusted green bean “fries” that I really need to share the recipe for, and lots of homemade soups. Because of that, I don’t feel the need to fill my refrigerator with kale and bean sprouts just yet.

I thought I’d start with this: it’s from one of many cookbooks I happily received this Christmas. I’ve admired Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street endeavor since its inception, and when I saw he had a cookbook out compiling all the recipes together, I couldn’t write it on my list fast enough. Filled with all the “here’s why” science of  America’s Test Kitchen, but with beautiful and brilliant recipes that seem much newer, with an edge.

cavatappi with chèvre, arugula + walnuts. | a periodic table

This one seems straightforward enough, but it’s an absolutely spot-on approach to creamy pasta. Simply mix any acid-set cheese (here, it’s chèvre, but you could use feta or ricotta) with some oil to break it down, mix it in with pasta and a little pasta water, and hey presto: you have ultra-luxurious cream sauce that’s surprisingly light, with nary a lump to be found. Add in fistfuls of fresh arugula and toasted walnuts (pine nuts would be lovely here too), and it’s an indulgently warm but semi-healthy-ish way to ease into those January eating plans.

Adapted from Milk Street: The New Home Cooking by Christopher Kimball. The new home cooking, indeed.

Cavatappi with Chèvre, Arugula + Walnuts

Serves | 4 |

Cavatappi happened because I couldn’t find the gemelli the original recipe called for, and I couldn’t summon up a reason as to why it really mattered. I love the recipe as-is, because it’s satisfying yet un-weighty. If you want this extra creamy, make double the chèvre/olive oil mixture: it’s a good way to go if you’re feeling it, trust me. 

  • 12 ounces cavatappi pasta
  • 4 oz fresh chèvre (goat cheese)
  • 5 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 tsp chili flake, plus more to taste
  • 4 oz (about 4 cups, loosely packed) baby arugula
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup chives (or use a couple of scallion greens, if that’s what you have)

Look at how simple this is:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add  pasta and cook to al dente, according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, combine chèvre, olive oil, salt and chili flake in a medium bowl, stirring and mashing with a fork until smooth (a few tiny lumps is 100% fine.) Once pasta has cooked, drain pasta, reserving 3/4 cup of pasta water. Return pasta back into pot and add goat cheese mixture and reserved cooking water.

It should be noted that at this point, I thought this was a fail. The sauce just looks like milky water at first, and when you see it, you think there’s zero way that turns into creamy sauce. Trust me: it does…do not doubt the Kimball. Proceed.

Stir the pasta a few times sauce begins to thicken and coat the pasta. Fold in arugula until it begins to wilt, add toasted walnuts and chives (saving a few for garnish if you’d like.) Season with more kosher salt and chili flake as needed, then divide into those lovely low bowls (Pro Tip: warm the bowls in a low oven before divvying up the pasta between them) garnish with chili flake, walnuts and/or chives, and serve.


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  • Reply movita beaucoup January 6, 2018 at 7:18 am

    The internet just happily sighed and said, “Ahhhh, she’s back.”

    • Reply shannon January 11, 2018 at 1:00 pm

      (whispers) *do you think the internets noticed?!?!?*

  • Reply John/Kitchen Riffs January 6, 2018 at 10:50 am

    I’ll take zero over one hundred degrees any day. Alas, we seem to have a whole lot more of the latter, don’t we? But not now! And this dish is SO appropriate for the weather we have now. Thanks.

    • Reply shannon January 11, 2018 at 12:59 pm

      I’m happy we feel the same way about temperatures, John! we do seem to have more of the latter, so i can’t say I hate the break in the action, even if it is a little more bitter than necessary. Today’s a good day to make this one, for sure: i hear it’s supposed to drop like 40 degrees in the next few hours, so fire up that pasta water.

  • Reply elizabeth January 7, 2018 at 8:20 pm

    This isn’t quite a trend yet, but you’re the second friend of mine with a blog who has noted that they haven’t felt that bloat from the holidays, and I like that! While there has been lasagna and meatballs and sausage, there was also a lot of fish with not a ton of starches, and a whole holiday spread of food that was starch-light save for the homemade tortellini that I made on-demand. 🙂

    I’m such a weirdo about wilted greens that I might omit them here, but I would absolutely accompany this with a healthy side salad chock full of them. I’m so happy you’re back!!!!

    • Reply shannon January 11, 2018 at 12:58 pm

      It would be pretty great if not feeling disgusting *were* a trend this year; that’s just the worst way to start the year, and if we all turned over a collective leaf to not do that to ourselves, hooray for us. Your holiday food sounds equal parts satisfying and happily non-bloaty – i think that’s really the way to do it, because indulgent too often gets confused with “i ate my weight in flour and refined sugar and had no self-control”, which is not the same thing. And homemade tortellini…ugh. lady. i need to learn how to fly up to you for the holidays, maybe.

      hey, you omit the greens: they can be weird, especially for some people. i love them, but i completely get it when people are like “yeah. no.” about them. this would be pretty great with alternative green things, like some steamed broccoli, maybe. and the salad would take care of that, too. I’M HAPPY TO BE BACK! *blushes* i missed you. although we’ve talked outside the blog (though not nearly enough.) it’s good to be writing again, for sure.

  • Reply Ashley January 8, 2018 at 1:29 pm

    Despite my intense love of sweatpants, fuzzy slippers, and cozy blankets, I’d rather be sweltering at 100 degrees than too chilly. The last 2 weeks in Ohio have been miserably cold, mostly below freezing or below zero, and I’m over it.
    That said…..gimme all the cozy food + drink! I’ve experimented with an instant pot (2 soups, good so far!) and consumed my weight in cheese. This pasta looks like it will fit in perfectly with my winter diet! And I love your admonition to “trust the Kimball”!!!
    Happy New Year!

    • Reply shannon January 11, 2018 at 12:51 pm

      I like that we live in a world where we can disagree about temperatures, but always agree on cozy food and drinks. 🙂 I know some people simply can not tolerate cold: i am that way with heat, so i can sympathize, and I know Ohio has been CRAZY COLD so i feel bad for you, for sure: i feel like we’ve had a break here for a day but the cold comes back to us tonight, and i’m guessing you get swept with it also.

      instant pot! Girl, you have to tell me about it: I feel like I’m the only blogger left standing who doesn’t have one, but i can’t pull the trigger. Happy new year to you too, Ashley! I’ve missed you!

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