I knew what I wanted for dinner yesterday before I had even taken a sip of my morning coffee. It was going to be that beautiful fusilli with chard and crunchy breadcrumbs that accompanied Melissa Clark’s story in the Times about whole wheat pasta. I didn’t have any fusilli — but I had some whole wheat rigatoni, and chard, and onions and…hey look at that!…I had some thyme and goat cheese and mushrooms, too! With the addition of each new ingredient to the pot, though, I was not only getting further away from Melissa’s recipe, I was getting further away a meal I could expect my children to eat no-questions-asked*. So just before I dolloped a hunk of very un-extractable goat cheese into the hot pasta, a point-of-no-return move if there ever was one, I made a decision: The kids are eating something else tonight. Tonight, I just need to cook my dinner the way I want to cook my dinner, and I want to eat my dinner the way I want to eat my dinner. The family has sat down to roughly the same meal for, what, about four straight nights now? Plus, I volunteered at school today and sent out Abby’s birthday invitations! Surely these noble deeds qualified me for some kind of kickback? So Andy and I had our special earthy, herby pasta and the kids had their Trader Joe’s chicken taquitos from the freezer. And the sun still rose from the east in the morning.
*in my house, mushrooms + goat cheese is asking a lot
Whole Wheat Rigatoni with Mushrooms, Chard, and Goat Cheese
You know what’s so funny? Writing out this recipe makes it sound so complicated, but in fact it only took about 25 minutes from start to finish. So maybe before introducing the meal to your weeknight rotation, try it on a weekend first to get yourself familiar with the rhythm. (I don’t want anyone cursing my name in between grating nutmeg and zesting lemon.)
In pasta pot, boil 1 pound whole wheat rigatoni (the photo shows some regular rigatoni mixed in, too because I didn’t have enough whole wheat.) Reserve about 1/4 cup of hot pasta water, then drain pasta and return to pot on the stove, tossing with olive oil to prevent sticking.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, over medium-low heat, cook 1/2 chopped onion, 1 garlic clove (minced) and a dash of red pepper flakes, fresh thyme leaves if you have them, salt and pepper in olive oil about 3 minutes. Push to the side, add 2 handfuls of mushrooms (chopped or sliced, I used baby bellas), a dash of freshly grated nutmeg and cook until mushrooms release their liquid, about 3 minutes. (Add more olive oil if they seem too dry.) Mix everything together, then add to pasta and toss. (Keep the skillet on the stove.)
Turn the pasta pot heat to low, add a handful of chard (chopped finely) crumble about 2 tablespoons of goat cheese (feta would probably work, too) into the rigatoni, the zest from half a lemon, and toss. Carefully pour in pasta water a drizzle at a time, until cheese has melted and it is evenly coating the pasta. Cook until chard has wilted and pasta is heated through.
Breadcrumbs: In the skillet, over medium-high heat, add about 1/2 plain breadcrumbs and enough olive oil to just moisten each crumb. (You don’t want them soggy.) Toast for a minute or two and add to the pasta before serving.
Heat Trader Joe’s taquitos in a 350°F oven for 12-15 minutes.