So, hi. It’s been a few weeks. I’ve been working through a lot in my personal life, and finally ready to get back at it! I’ve missed feeling the creative spark, I really have.
This idea came from a pretty tasty smoked gouda cheese that I found at Costco recently. One interesting thing about many smoked goudas available at the grocery store that I’m not sure a lot of people are aware of is that it’s a pasteurized processed cheese. There’s actually many types of processed cheese, not just Velveeta or Kraft singles, too. And maybe it makes me a bad “foodie,” but when I’m cooking, I do like to use Velveeta in macaroni and cheese – it has a great, smooth melting quality, doesn’t separate, and makes a creamy macaroni and cheese.
That all said, I decided to use some of the smoked gouda to make a pasta dish. Maybe a grown-up macaroni and cheese? I usually like to add frozen broccoli to my mac and cheese, so I thought I’d try broccolini for this dish. I say broccolini and not broccoli rabe – they’re two distinctly different vegetables. Broccolini is mild tasting and more tender, and broccoli rabe can be bitter and has a distinctive flavor. Though they’re not necessarily interchangeable, if you’d like to use broccoli rabe or any other green vegetable (asparagus, regular broccoli, etc.) in this recipe, feel free!
For a pasta shape, I wanted to go beyond penne and use something that would “hold” bits from the sauce, which is why I went with orecchiette. The dip, or curl, in the pasta shape allows each piece to contain some of the sauce, which is why it works well for pasta dishes that have chunky pieces, like vegetables, olives, nuts. If you can’t find orecchiette, you can use any medium cut pasta; penne, rotini, cavatappi are a few good ones.
And to round out the flavor of the sauce, I added some lemon zest to give it some freshness and tarragon for an herbal sweetness, both to cut through the richness of the sauce. The sauce will be thinner than what might be expected for “macaroni and cheese,” but that’s intentional. It has a lighter texture and doesn’t feel as heavy as a roux-thickened sauce does.
Orecchiette and Broccolini in a Smoked Gouda Sauce
Serve with a side salad, a steamed vegetable side dish, or top with protein of your choice to round out the meal.
8 oz. uncooked orecchiette
1 bunch broccolini, cleaned and chopped
3/4 cup (6 oz.) 2% milk
6 oz. smoked gouda, shredded
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. minced fresh tarragon
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
zest from one lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Prepare pasta as directed. One minute before the pasta is finished cooking, add broccolini. Drain pasta and broccolini and set aside.
While the pasta is cooking, heat milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in remaining ingredients and whisk until smooth. Adjust seasoning to taste.
Combine pasta and sauce in a serving dish and stir to ensure that the pasta is evenly coated. Let sit for two minutes, stir again, and serve.