It was one of those days on which dinner ideas were eluding me. My mind was blank. I haven’t made a full scale trip to the grocery since we returned from our little Midwestern jaunt, so there are only odds and ends in the refrigerator as well as some things my mom sent home with us. Does your mom pack up her refrigerator for you to take with you when you visit? Mine does. It makes me feel like I am still in college or something. In the 11th hour, my mind zeroed in on the half a tub of feta in the cheese drawer. Had it gone bad? If not, it must be used immediately . . . but, in what? I could have made a frittata, but I had 7 ounces to use up. The only way I could think to use up that much was in some sort of pasta dish. Then, a favorite came to mind – Marcella Hazan’s goat cheese and chive pasta. I make this at least once or twice every spring when I have a lot of chives on my hands.
I had feta, not goat cheese so a tweak was in order. I thought I would just wing it and experiment with substituting the feta for the goat cheese, but I chickened out and did a search. I found a New York Times recipe from 1997 that looked promising. It still needed some tweaking because – first of all – everyone in this family but me detests olives. (Not long after Alia came home from Kazakhstan, I made a green olive gnocchi with green olive pesto for just the two of us and she gobbled it up. I was hopeful that I found an olive ally, but that was the last time she touched them.) Secondly, I didn’t happen to have some pappardelle lying about. Farfelle, yes, pappardelle, no. Finally, chives aplenty here, not thyme.
This improvisation was mostly a hit. And, thankfully, the feta did not perish, but triumphed in this unusual, but tasty sauce.
Farfelle With Grape Tomatoes and Feta Cheese Sauce
adapted from The New York Times
Yield: 6 servings.
1/2 to 1 Serrano chile, cut in half lengthwise, seeds and membranes removed
1 clove garlic, smashed and skin removed
1/4 pound Greek feta cheese
1/2 cup cottage cheese
3 tablespoons plain yogurt, low-fat is okay
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1/2 a container grape tomatoes, quartered
fresh black pepper to taste
12-16 ounces farfelle or pasta shape of your choice (Next time, I will try linguine)
1/2 cup reserved pasta water
Bring water to boil in a large pot for the pasta.
With food processor running, put chili and garlic through feed tube to chop. Turn off processor; add feta, cottage cheese, yogurt and lemon juice, and process until smooth-ish. Put the cheese mixture in a large bowl (needs to accommodate ~1 pound of pasta) with chopped chives, quartered tomatoes and a grind or two of pepper. Taste for salt. I put a sprinkle in because you know I like salt.
By this time the water should be boiling. Add a tablespoon or more of salt. (Mario Batali says it should taste like the sea whatever that means.) Cook pasta to al dente. Don’t forget to scoop a little water out in case the sauce needs thinning. Drain pasta and toss with cheese mixture, tomatoes and chives. Add water a tablespoon at a time if the sauce is too thick. Taste and adjust seasonings. I added one more grind of pepper and the tiniest bit more salt.
I made some simple roasted broccoli as a side. I broke two heads of broccoli into bite-size florets and tossed to coat with olive oil on a cookie sheet. Then, I seasoned with salt and pepper. The cookie sheet went into a 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes (tossing once) until tender. When the broccoli was done, I put the zest of half the lemon I used for the sauce on top and tossed.
Me: A- (The minus is because it was too saucy, but I adjusted the recipe here to take this into account. The flavor of the sauce is great though.)
Scott: A (He had the same issue with the sauciness.)
Luca: A (“At first a B because the flavor was so surprising, but I got used to it.”)
Alia: D (I am on a losing streak here. The tomatoes were particularly offensive.)