Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Rotini with Goat Cheese Pesto: A Plate of Cheesy Green Pasta Goodness

Sometimes I see a recipe somewhere and it just gets stuck in my head. I keep thinking about it, over and over, until I finally give in and make it. This was the case when I was flipping through Rick and Lanie's Excellent Kitchen Adventures by Rick Bayless and his daughter, and saw the recipe for Bayless Family Pasta with Pesto. It wasn't exactly what I was planning on making this week but I kept reading the recipe, then going back and reading it again. I had it make it. It wasn't really the pesto itself that caught my eye, but rather the fact that there was goat cheese in it. I never thought about blending goat cheese into pesto before, but it seemed like a mighty good idea to me and although I try to limit my dairy due to allergies and such, this dish seemed like a worthy reason to splurge on some cheese. 

Lanie Bayless says, "My dad said that the pesto for pasta is supposed to be just basil, nuts, garlic and olive oil blended until smooth. You toss it with boiled pasta and Parmesan. And I don't really like it. At least not dome that way. Too strong. So we made a compromise: we add cream cheese or goat cheese to kind of m-e-l-l-o-w out those "classic" flavors.'

Rick Bayless says, "Yes,this recipe is a cross between what'll appear to be Italian tastes and American ones. Here, the classic Italian version Lanie described above is balanced with more cheese. But we brightened the flavors again with a little lemon or lime. It's our favorite pesto.

Bayless Family Goat Cheese Pesto
From Rick & Lanie's Excellent Kitchen Adventures
(Serves 4 as Main Course / 6 to 8 as Italian "Pasta" Course)

1/4 cups pine nuts or walnuts (I used walnuts)
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups fresh basil leaves 
1/4 cup lemon balm, optional 
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup cream cheese or fresh goat cheese 
1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice 
1 lb dried pasta of choice
1/2 to 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese 

Toast Nuts: Scoop nuts into a small skillet. Set over medium heat. Stir until nuts release toasty aroma into kitchen--about 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let nuts cool. 

Blanch Garlic: Place peeled garlic in microwave-safe cup and barely cover with water. Microwave on high (100%) power for 1 minute. Scoop garlic out of water with spoon. Allow to cool. 

Make Pesto: In a food processor, combine cooled toasted nuts, basil leaves, lemon balm if desired, olive oil, cream cheese, lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cut each garlic clove into 3 pieces and add to processor. Secure lid. Pulse 5 or 6 times, then run machine until mixture is smooth--about 1 minute. Leave pesto in food processor. 

Boil Pasta: Cook according to package instructions. Scoop out 1/2 cup pasta-boiling water and set aside. Drain pasta.

Finish Pasta and Serve: Turn on food processor. Pour reserved pasta water through processor feed tube. Torn off, remove lid and blade (scrape pesto from blade back into bowl).  Dump drained pasta back into pot. Mix pesto with pasta. Sprinkle on half of the grated Parmesan. Stir, evenly coating pasta with pesto and cheese. Divide onto plates and garnish with basil leaves if you have extras. Serve immediately, sprinkled with remaining Parmesan.

Notes/Results: Goat cheese in pesto is an excellent idea! ;-) It mellows the herby sharpness of the basil while adding a little tangy essence of its own and makes the texture thick and creamy. There is a homemade pasta recipe in the book but the Bayless family also recommends dried fusilli or spaghetti. I used some multigrain rotini. If you don't have lemon balm, I find a mix of mint leaves and lemon zest gives a similar flavor profile. This was quick, easy and very good. I'll make it again. 

Since this Sunday is Mother's Day, this week's IHCC them is For Mom! For moms who like pesto and goat cheese, this would be a great dish, and it's easy enough for dads and kids to put together. ;-) You can check out all the mom-friendly dishes this week by going to the post and following the links.

Of course I also have to send it to one of my favorite blog events, Presto Pasta Nights, hosted this week by Emma of Emma's Kitchen Diary. Stop by and check out all of the delicious pasta dishes in the roundup on her blog this Friday.



  1. This pesto sounds amazing! I'll definitely be adding it to my 'to make' list. Thanks so much for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights 

  2. sounds and looks great!

  3. And now...I won't be able to think about ANYTHING else until I make this!  I've become a goat cheese fanatic these days and you are fueling the fire.

  4. What a cool idea!  I have some regular pesto in the freezer and some fresh local goat cheese in the fridge.  Can't wait to try it!  Thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights.  

  5. Natashya Kitchen PuppiesMay 9, 2012 at 9:37 AM

    What a great idea! I find straight pesto to be a little much sometimes too - why haven't I ever thought to put goat cheese or cream cheese in it? Brilliant! 

  6. Great recipe and it looks sooo goood!  It makes my mouth water!

  7. Looks delicious and the pesto sounds great, have not tried goat's cheese before, something that is unfamiliar around here! 

  8. I'm not a big fan of pesto, but even this sounds good with the goat cheese!

  9. Oh YES!  A while back I made a creamy roasted red pepper pesto from Bitty that used goat cheese and absolutely adored it.  I think it's high time to try it in a green pesto. Namely? This one.  Looks excellent (hence the title of the book...). LOL ;P

  10. I love anything with goat cheese and this looks fabulous!

  11. Okay, you said goat cheese and I'm all in.  Love it!


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