Last night's dinner was mostly an exercise in focused distraction, so I don't think we'll be winning any food photography awards here. Also, I'm suddenly concerned that my oven rests on a steep decline—what's with all the tomato migration?
When I pulled into my driveway, I heard a fierce, rustling ball of speed hurtling in my direction, and quickly retreated back to the driver's seat and slammed the door before realizing it was my neighbor's dog. Worried that she seemed to be so enjoying this game of Kickin' It in the Middle of the Street, I coaxed her back inside her own fence and returned to unload my groceries ... only to find her standing behind me once again, wagging her tail and panting her spotted tongue with glee.
Dear and dumb: a dog after mine own heart.
Running laps between the couch and the front door to determine whether her owner had returned home ate up most of the night, so I didn't even embark on this strange experiment until close to 10. And it's going to sound ridiculously overwrought, from a prep standpoint, but that's the terrific thing about cooking for one—there's less to work with!
Basically, I made manicotti out of penne. And yes, that's a little bit like threading a needle with a garden hose, but it was ultimately easier than I thought to get those little quills crammed full of creamy goat cheese.
Yes, that's what I said.
Now I have to say that the great discovery of this dinner is that any of the chalky aggressiveness I usually associate with goat cheese was beautifully mitigated by cream (but what isn't?). It's sweet and mollifying, and made every bite into the pasta filled with a luscious, savory surprise
I ran out of the yummy goat cheese mixture before I'd quite filled all the pasta, so I mixed the leftover cooked penne with some chopped red onion, halved grape tomatoes, romaine, kidney beans, and avocado cream made with the remaining half of avocado from yesterday for today's lunch.
This is the last of the spinach, lord save our souls, and all I believe I'll need for a while. I did top this off with some provolone before I stuck it in the oven, because it is universally true that two cheeses are better than one.
Goat Cheese–Stuffed Penne with Chicken, Tomatoes, and Spinach<
2 ounces whole wheat penne, cooked according to package directions
¼ cup goat cheese
2 chives, finely chopped
1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 ounces ground chicken
Pinch of dried crushed red pepper
½ pint grape tomatoes, halved
2 handfuls fresh spinach
Freshly grated provolone cheese
1. Spread pasta out on a plate to cool slightly. Combine goat cheese and chives; stir in enough cream to make a soft, smooth consistency. Spoon goat cheese mixture into one corner of a zip-top plastic bag, and snip off the tip of the corner with scissors. Carefully pipe goat cheese mixture inside each piece of cooled penne, and set aside.
2. Heat olive oil over medium heat until hot; add garlic, and sauté until golden and fragrant. Add chicken, and season with red pepper, salt, and black pepper; cook until browned and cooked through. (Increase heat to medium-high, if necessary.) Reduce heat to low, and toss with tomatoes and spinach; cook until tomatoes have softened and spinach is wilted.
3. Spoon half the chicken mixture into the bottom of a small casserole dish; top with stuffed penne and then the remaining chicken mixture. Sprinkle with desired amount of provolone cheese, and bake at 425 degrees about 20 minutes or until pasta is bubbling and cheese is melted and golden. Makes 1 serving.