Capellini Pasta with Goat Cheese and Thyme

California-Style Pasta with Thyme and Goat Cheese

Way back in the ‘80’s my favorite meal was a roast beef sandwich on a toasted “bulky” roll, which in parts of the world other than Rhode Island would be known as a Kaiser, smothered with mushrooms, piled high with salty meat and so juicy the bulky would be saturated and falling to pieces after just two bites. I’d get them at Chelo’s, a chain of local restaurants.

I’m dating myself here, but that was a quarter of a century ago. I was in high school, my hair was big, and if you’d offered me a pizza with goat cheese on it I know I would’ve looked at you funny.

At the same time, Wolfgang Puck was in Hollywood creating California cuisine – pulling pizzas out of wood-burning ovens and serving salads as entrees at his legendary restaurant Spago.

Look how we’ve grown up! I now love goat cheese, Wolfgang Puck has become as much a brand name as Chef Boyardee, and you can walk into your local mini-mart, grab a frozen Wolfgang Puck pizza, microwave it and eat it in the car (I’m not saying that’s a good thing).

The August issue of Food & Wine has a feature story about Puck, which got me interested in this recipe. Apparently, this was the first pasta dish on the menu at Spago and put goat cheese on America’s culinary map.

I haven’t had a roast beef sandwich in years, but I did have a look at the 2007 Chelo’s menu – the sandwich is still there – along with Asian grilled salmon on California mesclun greens.

Capellini with Goat Cheese, Thyme and Toasted Pine Nuts

Inspired by Wolfgang Puck

12 ounces dried capellini pasta
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces soft goat cheese
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
Thyme sprigs, for garnish

Cook the capellini in a large pot of boiling salted water.

Meanwhile, bring the broth to a boil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the thyme and simmer until reduced by half. Lower heat, stir in the butter and goat cheese until melted and smooth.

Drain the capellini and add to the skillet, tossing to coat with sauce.

Twirl the capellini into portions with a large serving fork or tongs and place on individual plates. Sprinkle with pine nuts and garnish with thyme, if you like.

Serves 4-6.

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