One afternoon last week I opened the fridge, looking for inspiration. I didn’t have a dinner plan and didn’t feel like going to the store. Moreover, having put a lot of effort into cooking a new recipe the night before, I wanted something quick and easy. I found a hunk of creamy blue cheese, left over from a dinner party, and some fresh spinach and thought, why not make a pasta? A Google search led me first to The Passionate Cook and her recipe for pasta with gorgonzola, spinach, walnuts and … single malt.
I didn’t follow her recipe per se — The Professor is serious about his single malts and I didn’t think my four-something would appreciate the flavor in any case — but it convinced me that the idea wasn’t insanity. And I liked the idea of adding walnuts, both for their nutty flavor and for the crunch that they would add to what might otherwise be a rather soft, dare I say “mushy,” meal. One thing I’ve learned about cooking vegetarian meals for meat-lovers is that you can’t ignore texture.
I also decided to top each bowlful of pasta with diced pear. The cool, crispness would, I thought, add yet another texture. And as for taste, blue cheese and pears are a classic combination.
Bringing it all together was delightfully easy. While the pasta was cooking, I wilted the spinach in a saute pan with a touch of olive oil and some salt. Meanwhile, I tossed the blue cheese into a saucepan with some milk, stirring it occasionally as it melted. When it had, I poured it into the saute pan with the spinach, added the cooked pasta, mixed and served, topping each bowl with chopped walnuts and crisp cubes of pear.
The Professor, in his reserved way, was enthusiastic. Though he suggested trying the dish again with Gorgonzola, a sharper blue than the one I had used. The Cambozola, a sort of “blue brie,” was a tad too creamy and subtle (if you can use the word “subtle” to describe a blue cheese).
So last night, I tried again, this time using a Gorgonzola, and the dish earned an A-. The Professor, in agreement with conventional wisdom, thought the flavors worked well together. And the crunch of the walnuts and the crispness, not to mention sweetness, of the pears added welcome texture and complexity to what otherwise would feel like, as The Professor put it, “pasta with cream sauce.”
Even better, my picky four-something ate it. Or most of it — she picked around the spinach but gobbled up enough of the unused diced pear to make it a vitamin-rich meal.
1 lb pasta
1/3 lb gorgonzola
1/4 cup whole milk
5 oz baby spinach (or more)
1/2 pear, diced
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1) Put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta
2) Put Gorgonzola and milk in a small sauce pot set to medium-low
3) Toss spinach and a tsp of olive oil and a pinch of salt in a large saute pan over low heat.
4) If you haven’t already diced the pear and chopped the walnuts then you could do that now.
5) Don’t forget to stir the Gorgonzola
6) When it is melted to your liking (some prefer a creamy sauce, others like to to keep a few bites or bits of solid cheese) pour it into the saute pan with the spinach and stir
7) Add the cooked and drained pasta to the saute pan when it is ready.
8) Divide the pasta into bowls and top each with chopped walnuts and diced pears