Arugula and Goat Cheese Pasta Recipe

I *just* had my first recipe request! How fun! A “recipe to improve the dating life of a random college student out in Washington, DC“! I racked my brains for the perfect dish that would be affordable on a student budget, relatively easy to cook but still feel special, and of course, be super tasty.

I was reminded of a pasta dish I used to regularly make (why did I stop?!?), I originally named it “If salad and pasta got together and had a baby…” but that sounds a little weird so Arugula and Goat Cheese Pasta it is. The peppery herbaceous flavor of the arugula cuts through the slippery pasta rich with the creamy goat cheese. Fun fact – arugula is known as rocket in the UK.

A creamy pasta without the cream! Peppery arugula, rich goat cheese and crispy bacon make for a great date night pasta recipe.

This is a very flexible recipe, if your date happens to be vegetarian you can easily skip the bacon (just start cooking the onions in a little olive oil and butter) and swap the chicken stock for vegetable stock and it’s still really delicious. If you’re fond of mushrooms you can add more (I usually do the full 10 oz – half regular white mushrooms and half whatever looks good in the store – chestnut, shitake, oyster). You can kick the taste up with thyme or parsley, pine nuts and a squeeze of lemon juice but if you don’t have those ingredients, it won’t ruin your date night.

Ingredients for Arugula and Goat Cheese pastaNot pictured – chicken stock, butter, optional – parmesan cheese, lemon and a small onion – because they wouldn’t fit 😉 If you have a long day of classes, you can get some of the prep done in advance the night before – finely chop the onion, mince the garlic, chop the mushrooms, grate the cheese and store them all separately in the fridge (wrap tightly in plastic wrap, foil or baggies)

Peppery baby arugula cuts the richness of the goat cheese in this simple yet elegant pasta dish.

If you’re an experienced cook, you can chop as you go but if you’re newer to cooking I’d recommend having everything prepped (onions, garlic, mushroom chopped, cheese grated/crumbled) to remove any stress. Bonus – if you’d like to cook together, you can assign mushroom chopping or cheese grating to make it into a team-effort dinner.

Cliffnotes: cook the bacon until crispy, remove and set aside, cook the onion in the bacon fat, add the mushrooms and cook until nutty and brown with a little garlic, remove and set aside. Add chicken stock and reduce by 50%. Add mushrooms back to pan. Add freshly cooked pasta (reserve cooking water!), butter, parmesan (if using) and toss. Add arugula, crumbled goat cheese and pine nuts (if using). Salt, pepper and a good squeeze of lemon juice. If dry, loosen with pasta water. Top with crumbled crispy bacon and a little more goat cheese.
How to make arugula and goat cheese pasta with bacon and pine nuts

And there are just enough breaks in the cooking for excellent conversation…

arugula and goat cheese pasta

  • Servings: two cuties on a date
  • Time: about 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
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Note all of the ingredients give an approximate range, if you like more bacon, use more bacon, if you’re ambivalent about mushrooms, use less 😉

Ingredients:

4-6 oz of bacon (preferably center cut which is less fatty)
1 small onion (or half a large onion)
5-10 oz of mushrooms (any combination of white, chestnut, shiitake)
1-2 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp butter (~1/4 of a stick)
2 cups unsalted chicken stock
1 bag of baby arugula (3-5 oz)
1 small log of plain goat cheese, usually 4oz
Your choice of dried pasta – linguine, fettucini, tagliatelle
Optional: fresh herbs (thyme or parsley), a lemon, pine nuts, small piece of parmesan cheese

Directions:

1. Chop the bacon into bite size pieces (kitchen shears make this much easier)
2. Chop the onion into a fine dice and crush the garlic in a garlic crusher (or slice as finely as possible)
3. Brush any dirt from the mushrooms and chop them into slices. Remove the woody stems from shiitake mushrooms if using.
4. Grate the parmesan cheese (if using), crumble the goat cheese into little pieces like small popcorn.
5. Put a large pot of water on to boil and add a good tablespoon of salt
6. In a large pan (large enough to eventually hold all of the ingredients AND the pasta), cook the bacon over a very low heat for a few minutes. The fat will start to render out and you can turn the heat up higher until the bacon reaches the desired level of crispness. Stir regularly to stop the bacon sticking.
7. Remove the bacon and set aside. Lower the heat and add the onions, cook until they are translucent (about 3-5 minutes), stirring regularly.
8. Add the mushrooms (salt and pepper too!) to the onions and continue to stir regularly over a medium heat. If your pan seems dry, you can add a glug of olive oil. Cook until the mushrooms are just starting to turn golden and then remove the mushroom/onion mix and set aside.
9. Add the chicken stock (don’t worry if there are a few pieces of mushroom or onion left in the pan, they’ll add more flavor) and turn the heat up high, stir to loosen any tasty brown bits in the bottom of the pan. Cook until the chicken stock is reduced to about half (about 5-10 minutes). Turn the heat way down to the lowest setting and add the mushrooms/onion mix back to the pan. Taste and add salt/pepper if necessary.
10. Put the pasta in the boiling water and cook according to package directions. Drain in a colander and try to save some of the cooking water (set a mug under the colander).
11. Add the pasta to the mushrooms, add a large knob of butter and parmesan (if using), toss vigorously (tongs or a couple of forks). If things seem dry, add a good glug of the reserved pasta water (the starchiness will help bind everything together).
12. Add 3/4 of the crumbled goat cheese, arugula, pine nuts (if using) and a good squeeze of lemon juice. Toss again. Add the bacon. Final toss.
13. Serve in warmed bowls/plates (from the oven on the lowest setting), with the rest of the crumbled goat cheese on top.

Excellent with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, NZ

Cooking tips:

Mushrooms are tricky little fungi, they usually go through a mushy stage when they’re officially cooked but not looking too appetizing. You can stop cooking at this stage and it won’t have a major adverse effect on your dish but if you can bear it, keep the heat high and stir regularly, watch the mushrooms like a hawk and you’ll be rewarded with a just browning/nutty tasting mushroom that will be absolutely delicious.

The last few steps all happen in a matter of seconds (adding the pasta, butter, parmesan, arugula, goat cheese, pine nuts) so having everything ready and bowls/plates warmed and ready to go will make your life easier.

Mouthwatering pasta recipe with nutty pan roasted mushrooms, peppery arugula, creamy goat cheese and crispy bacon.

Do we have any other cooking suggestions or recipe ideas for our college student? Will the cooking work out? More importantly, will there be a second date? Stay tuned…

If you have your own recipe requests, I’d love to hear from you. You can use the contact form above or email mainelyeatingblog @ gmail.com (remove the spaces!)

Indulgent creamy pasta with pancetta and mushrooms

You know how some nights you’re all “Let’s go for a walk and eat a superfood salad!?” and then other nights you just want to lie on the sofa in your PJs with a blanket and shovel high carb food into your mouth? Yup? Well this is the pasta recipe for those sofa nights. A super fast, super indulgent dish with just enough time built in to get your PJs on and find your new series on Netflix. I don’t know about you, but we’re DYING for Series 4 of The Americans on FX and this will totally be what we’re eating during the series premiere.Creamy pasta with mushrooms, pancetta and marscapone

What’s not to love about a 5 ingredient dinner – pasta, eggs, mascarpone (or heavy cream), pancetta and mushrooms plus a few storecupboard staples – salt, pepper, butter, garlic, onion and parmesan. As least I count butter, garlic, onion and parmesan as “essential” items in our home 😉 and it takes maybe 15 minutes to prepare. One of the unsung hero ingredients in this dish is the leftover pasta cooking water – the starchiness brings everything together!

Simply cook the mushrooms and a little garlic in butter until brown and nutty, remove and cook pancetta, add onions, add back cooked mushrooms. Mix eggs and mascarpone. Grate cheese. Cook pasta (reserve cooking water!!!!) and add to pan (off heat), throw in a handful of cheese (channel Mickey Mouse size hands for this), a big splash of the starchy cooking water and then add the mixture of eggs and mascarpone cheese. Toss vigorously and serve in warmed bowls.
How to make pasta with mushrooms and bacon

Actually, you could probably make this in 10 minutes if it wasn’t for my insistence that mushrooms should be cooked separately. I love my mushroom friends but they tend to color everything else…well, mushroom color. If you’re happy eating grey food, then by all means cook the mushrooms at the same time as the onion and skip step 1.

At best this is a VERY incorrect carbonara (the pancetta should be replaced with guanciale, mushrooms are uninvited imposters, onions and garlic are as welcome as a coven of vampires in your home, mascarpone or heavy cream is all kind of sacrilegious and WHERE IS THE SPAGHETTI?!?!?), but here’s the thing, it tastes pretty great. And the addition of the mascarpone or heavy cream reduces the risk of your eggs scrambling in the pan. You’re welcome.

Indulgent creamy pasta with pancetta and mushrooms

  • Servings: two greedy people
  • Time: 15 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy except for the mixing of the eggs when you can end up with scrambled egg pasta which will absolutely ruin your night
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Ingredients:

8 oz mushrooms (I used chestnut mushrooms but baby bella or regular white mushrooms work too!), if you have a sprig of fresh thyme or some fresh parsley, throw it in.
2 cloves fresh garlic – crushed or finely sliced
Large knob of butter
6 oz pancetta (or bacon)
1 small onion – finely diced
1 whole egg
2 egg yolks
3 tbsp marscapone cheese (or 3 tbsp heavy cream if you can’t find mascarpone)
6 oz parmegiano regiano (you can also do a 50:50 mix of parmesan and pecorino)

4-6 oz of dried pasta. I have a fondness of De Cecco egg fettucine (it comes in nice little nests, 1 nest per person is perfect) – you’ll see it in the step-by-step picture or a nice ruffled pasta as in the top picture.

Directions:

  1. Saute sliced mushrooms in a large pan (you need to have room for everything in this pan later) with a little butter over a medium heat until golden brown and just starting to smell nutty. Add garlic for the last minute of cooking. Remove to a plate/bowl.
  2. Put a large pot of water on to boil, salt generously.
  3. In the same pan that you cooked the mushrooms in, add the diced pancetta and cook over a medium heat (stirring regularly) until the fat has started to render out and the pancetta is getting crispy.
  4. Add diced onions and stir vigorously so the moisture in the onions loosens up the browned crispy bits (fond) on the bottom of the pan. When the onion is lovely and soft and just on the verge of turning golden, add the mushrooms back to pan and reduce the heat to the very lowest setting just to keep everything warm.
  5. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for the required time
  6. While the pasta cooks, mix the whole egg, egg yolks and mascarpone in a small bowl. It won’t really mix and you’ll have weird lumps. Don’t worry about it. Add some salt and pepper (and have a sip of wine!)
  7. Grate the cheese with a microplane grater.
  8. Put serving bowls or plates into oven on low or fill with boiling water (tip water out just before serving)
  9. Drain the pasta making sure to save some pasta water (I usually stick a large coffee mug under my colander to catch the water)
  10. With the pan OFF the heat, add the drained pasta to the mushroom/pancetta mix.
  11. Add the grated cheese and a good glug of the pasta water (1/4-1/2 cup to start)
  12. Add the lumpy egg/mascarpone mixture and toss like crazy. You don’t want scrambled eggs! More of a silky, creamy, rich sauce. Add more pasta water if things look dry.
  13. Serve on warmed plates/bowls and add a final shaving of fresh parmigiano regiano.

Creamy mushroom and pancetta pasta showered with parmesan cheese

What’s your must-watch TV series at the moment? What should we watch next? We’re all caught up on Making of a Murderer, House of Cards, The Americans, True Detective….

Oh, and if you don’t have a microplane grater (love mine for cheese, ginger, garlic, chocolate, nutmeg and more), check this one out:

Short ribs in Irish stout

When it comes to travel styles, you couldn’t get two more different people than me and my husband. I’ll spend weeks and sometimes months researching and planning ahead, writing out packing lists with outfits day-by-day, making dinner reservations at hidden-gem local restaurants, booking tickets to must-see attractions. Paul has me pack throws a few golf shirts into a suitcase, grabs his passport and asks the concierge for directions to the nearest Irish bar. Wherever we are in the world. He then settles in for the night with a pint of Guinness and a bowl of Irish stew.
Beef short ribs braised in Irish stout

At least the Irish bars will be authentic when we’re in Belfast next month. A traditional Irish stew is made with lamb but Whole Foods had a good deal on local Maine short ribs so I decided on a braised short rib in ale this chilly weekend. I’ve previously made this braise with Guinness Irish stout and found it a little too intense and bitter so I plumped for two bottles of local Maine beer. The first is a rich Irish-style black stout and then to counter the richness, a lighter Belgian-style saison ale both from Allagash Brewery. Murphy’s or Boddington beers work well too. Worcestershire sauce and tomato paste boost the umami flavors. The word braise is French in origin and usually involves searing food at a high-temperatur and then finishing in a covered pot at a lowered temperature submerged in a liquid (which may also add flavor).

A braise is best done low and slow with a well-marbled cut of beef – chuck, short ribs, round roast – which will stay moist, become spoon-tender and start to fall apart after an afternoon in the oven. Well-marbled cuts of meat are also more fatty so I like to make this stew the day before to allow time to chill and defat it before serving. Here’s a 15-second video of what happened in the pot:

I love the sweetness that carrots add to the braise but after 4+ hours of cooking they can get a little mushy. If you like a mushy carrot then it’s all good! If you’re fussy about your carrots like me, you can strain the braising liquid, remove the sacrificial carrots, onion and celery and then cook up a new batch of carrots to add back to the defatted sauce with the beef.

You’ll spend a little time up-front quickly chopping the vegetables into hearty chunks (no fiddly dice here!) and browning the meat but then you throw it all into the oven and let the beef gently braise in the beer while your house fills with mouth-watering smells. Short ribs can shrink quite alarmingly during the cooking process so I bank on 2 short ribs per person, this is somewhat excessive but makes for delicious leftovers. How long you need to cook your stew for will depend on the exact cut of meat. My end-point is when I lift a piece of meat from the braise and it starts to fall apart like this:
Fall-apart beef short ribs braised in a rich Irish stout

Braised Short Ribs in Irish-style Stout

  • Servings: 4 greedy people
  • Time: 30 minutes prep plus cooking time
  • Difficulty: pretty easy
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Ingredients:

24 fl oz of beer. I used an Irish-style stout and a Belgian-style Saison
4lb boneless short ribs (~8 short ribs)
4 oz diced pancetta (or bacon)
5 carrots – peeled and chopped into thick slices (plus more for serving if you like)
3 sticks of celery – chopped into thick slices
2 onions – chopped into thick slices
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 oz (half a small can) of tomato paste (I like Muir Glen)
32 fl oz (1 carton) unsalted beef broth
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
Optional: a few sprigs of fresh thyme

Directions:

  1. Pour flour onto large plate or into baggie. Add 1tsp salt, 1tsp pepper and 1 tsp dry mustard powder (optional). Dredge short ribs in seasoned flour (don’t throw away the leftover flour remaining on the plate)
  2. In a Dutch oven over a medium heat, dry-fry the pancetta until the fat renders out and it starts to turn golden brown
  3. Lower heat, add onions and cook for 10 minutes
  4. Add celery and carrots and cook for 5 minutes
  5. Remove vegetables and pancetta from pot (set aside in bowl), add butter and olive oil to pot.
  6. Increase heat to high and quickly sear the pieces of floured meat. Don’t crowd the pan or the meat will just steam. You’re aiming for a nice brown crust. As each piece of meat is browned, remove to a plate.
  7. With heat still on high, pour in the beer and with a wooden spoon, really put some elbow grease in to loosen all of the brown fond (sticky brown cooked-in goodness) on the bottom of the pan. When the bottom of the pan feels smooth (like you’ve incorporated all of the toasty bits into the liquid), add the tomato paste.
  8. Add a tablespoon of the leftover seasoned flour and whisk until the tomato paste and flour are incorporated into the beer. The sauce should start to thicken up alarmingly at this point.
  9. Add the beef broth, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and pop the short ribs, vegetables and thyme back into the pot. You want the meat to be completely submerged so add a little more broth or water if you need to.
  10. Pop the lid on and cook in a 315 degree F oven for ~4 hours (stir at the halfway point). The exact cooking time will depend on your cut of meat. If you want to speed up the cooking time you could cube the beef at the beginning. I’ll just give the beef a little stir and poke every now and again until it’s literally spoon-tender
  11. Remove from oven, cool and refrigerate overnight.
    Easy option: Refrigerate the whole pot overnight. To serve, scrape off the yellow fat on the top and then cook at 350 degrees until piping hot.
    More fiddly option (my preference): Put the shorts ribs in a baggie with a spoon or two of the cooking liquid and refrigerate. Strain the braising liquid into a jar or container and refrigerate. Throw away the mushy vegetable. When you’re ready to serve, cook the shorts ribs in the strained, defatted braising liquid and add some freshly sauteed, roasted or boiled (non-mushy) carrots. Taste the liquid and adjust seasoning (salt and black pepper). A little dash of balsamic vinegar or squeeze of lemon juice will brighten the flavors.Serve piping hot over creamy mashed potatoes

Pin or save this one for St Patrick’s Day!
Melt-in-your-mouth short ribs in a rich Irish ale gravy

Variations: For a more “elegant” dish you can swap the beer for a hearty red wine and serve with buttered noodles and a crisp green salad. If you prefer to cook without alcohol, use unsalted beef stock.