One of my most favorite things about food blogging is how it can bring people together. You know how, no matter how big a house is, everyone will end up in the kitchen at some point during the party? Food blogging is basically the virtual kitchen of the house party. Everyone’s going to cram in there. It’s going to get loud and crowded, but it’s going to be cozy and there will be so many smiles.
The food blogging game has certainly changed since I started eleven years ago. What was once a hobby has given rise to full-fledged businesses with employees, agents, cookbooks, and tours. For some bloggers, the game change brought with it voices, campaigns, and ads that seem completely opposite of their beginnings. But some bloggers, like Sonya from A Couple Cooks, has remained so authentic and honest. She and her husband run their blog, podcast, and business together. Along the way, they’ve shared openly about their decisions to change the way they eat, causes they believe in, and their difficulties and ultimate success in adopting.
I got to meet Sonya a couple of years ago when I went to visit Annie in Indianapolis. She is every bit as lovely, thoughtful, and intelligent as her writing voice projects. It’s no wonder the cookbook she and her husband wrote, Pretty Simple Cooking, is everything it set out to be–a balanced, creative, wholesome, approachable, playful collection of recipes you’ll love to make for yourself, your friends, and your family. Truthfully, those adjectives describe Sonja perfectly. So yes, authenticity to a tee.
In living their mission and vision even more fully, they started the Pretty Simple Cooking Club last year. They wanted to get more people cooking and their recipes and spending time together feeding their bodies, souls, and relationships.
This recipe, in all its unfussy glory, is one of February’s choices. It may not seem like much; goat cheese is the only ingredient that could even come close to being considered fancy. But, let me tell you, the way each of these humble ingredients is thoughtfully chosen and perfectly balanced. I made a couple adaptations–using spinach in place of kale and adding in mushrooms–because I had them on hand and they needed to be used. To me, they worked beautifully and the mushrooms really brought an extra depth and earthiness to the flavor that was perfect for a chilly winter’s night.
But, please, make it your own. It’s what Sonja says to do in the cookbook. After all, cooking should be all about nourishing yourself and those you love.
Humble ingredients combine in this spinach, mushroom, and goat cheese rigatoni to make a nourishing meal that feels truly special.
Spinach, Mushroom, and Goat Cheese Rigatoni
adapted fromPretty Simple Cooking
1 oz. dried shitake mushrooms (You can use fresh instead. Just omit step one.)
4 c. boiling water, plus more for pasta
1TBSP plus 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
1 lb. rigatoni, penne, torcetti, or orecchiette, whole wheat, if desired
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
4 medium shallots
12 oz. spinach, kale, chard, or other greens, cleaned and roughly chopped
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
4 oz. soft goat cheese
zest of 1 lemon
black pepper, if desired
1. In a medium bowl, reconstitute the mushrooms by covering with boiling water and letting sit, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove mushrooms, roughly chop, and set aside. Strain the liquid and reserve.
2. To cook the pasta, add the strained mushroom water to a large pot, along with 1 TBSP salt and enough water to allow the pasta to cook properly. Bring to a boil, then add pasta and cook according to package directions.
3. Meanwhile, heat 3 TBSP olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the shallots and greens until the shallots are translucent and the greens begin to wilt, approximately 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms, garlic, and red pepper flakes and cook 1 minute more, stirring the whole time to avoid burning the garlic.
4. Combine the pasta and spinach mixture in a large bowl, adding a bit of the pasta water, if desired. Add dollops of the goat cheese and 1/2 tsp. salt and stir to combine. Taste and adjust salt and black or red pepper, as desired.
5. To serve, divide among four bowls and top with lemon zest.
yield: 4 servings