Rich from brown butter, tangy from melted goat cheese, and earthy from mushrooms and spinach, this hearty, vegetarian pasta is the perfect dinner to cozy up to on a cold night. Even better, it's simple to prepare. While the pasta cooks, sauté the mushrooms and aromatics, then toss the cooked pasta and spinach right in the same skillet. From there, all that's required is a brief run under the broiler to melt the cheese and brown the tips of the pasta. (Just be sure to use a skillet that's oven safe.) The marriage of flavors and textures is pretty darn special, especially for a dinner that comes together so easily.
A few notes and tips: I love the sweet, mild flavor of leeks with mushrooms, but feel free to substitute sliced shallots or onions. Swap another tangy cheese like feta or ricotta for the goat cheese, or Pecorino or aged Gruyère for the Parmesan. Virtually any pasta shape is fair game in this dish, though small shapes with indentations or spirals are especially nice because they grab onto the sauce and other ingredients. —EmilyC
- Prep time 15 minutes
- Cook time 25 minutes
- Serves 4 to 6
pasta, such as orechiette, fusilli, or casarecce
Kosher salt, to taste
olive oil, divided
mushrooms, such as button, cremini, shiitake, or a mix, trimmed and halved
large leek, trimmed and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
garlic cloves, minced
minced fresh rosemary or thyme
red pepper flakes, or to taste
balsamic vinegar (red or white), or more to taste
(packed) baby spinach (can substitute arugula or other tender greens)
to 6 ounces goat cheese, crumbled and divided in half
finely grated Parmesan
- Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons salt and pasta; cook until al dente according to package directions. Reserve 1 1/2 cups water, then drain the pasta.
- Meanwhile, in a 12- or 14-inch ovenproof skillet, warm olive oil over medium-high heat. Sauté mushrooms, shaking the pan occasionally to prevent burning, until they release moisture and start to brown, about 4 to 5 minutes.
- Lower heat, and add leeks, garlic, rosemary, a big pinch or two of salt, and red pepper flakes. Sauté until leeks are tender and mushrooms are nicely browned, about 2 minutes longer.
- Move the mushrooms to one side of the skillet. On the other side, add the butter, stirring it until it starts to melt, foam, and brown (this can happen quickly, about 2 minutes). Add the balsamic, then stir the balsamic-brown butter in with the mushrooms until evenly integrated.
- In the same skillet, add the pasta, half the goat cheese, spinach, Parmesan, and 3/4 cup cooking water to the mushrooms. Toss together over low heat until creamy and integrated, adding more water as needed to create a loose, creamy sauce. (I usually add another 1/2 to 3/4 cup). Season with salt and add more balsamic to taste. Dot the remaining goat cheese over the top.
- Heat the broiler with an over rack about 4 to 5 inches from the heating element. Broil the pasta for about 3 to 5 minutes, or until the goat cheese is melted and the tips of the pasta are browning. Serve warm.