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Gemelli Pasta with Chevre, Arugula and Walnuts

4 Servings

45 minutes

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Creamy pasta sauces pose two problems: They are finicky to make and they quickly decompose into a stringy or grainy mess. So when we came across a recipe from Nigel Slater that suggested using fresh goat cheese instead of the Parmesan called for in classic Alfredo and carbonara, we were intrigued. The notion was simple. The heat of freshly cooked pasta and a splash of its cooking water would dissolve the soft chevre, making a rich, smooth sauce in no time. Except it didn’t work. The ingredients quickly broke down into a chalky mess. Then we discovered a technique by Marcella Hazan in which you first mix the cheese with olive oil. It worked wonderfully, but why? Turns out, goat’s milk has more fat than cow’s milk, so turning it into cheese requires the addition of acid. The acid forms the cheese curds but also creates strong water-insoluble bonds between the proteins. Hence our chalky mess. But add oil to the chevre and those bonds slip apart and the cheese melts easily. The same trick works for any acid-set cheese, such as ricotta, cottage and feta.




We like to salt our pasta cooking water liberally, since it seasons not only the pasta but also the finished dish; 2 generous tablespoons of kosher salt for 4 quarts of water was best.

45 minutes


  • Kosher salt

  • ¾

    pound gemelli or casarecce pasta


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Debba R.
May 4, 2023
Toasting the walnuts is tasty and key
I've made this a couple of times and I love it. Adding the toasted walnuts is a revelation to me, so much depth of flavor. I made it exactly as written, even found the gemeli pasta. YUM.
Connie G.

#4.5 to 5. Charter Issue, Fall 2016. Very good with nice creamy sauce. Used mixture of spinach and arugula. Could not find pasta specified so used Bowties. Could add bacon or Italian sausage

Anne B.

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Donna B.

I have made this several times using both the gemelli pasta as well as the alternate casarecce pasta. No difference in texture and both work equally well. I followed the recipe 100%. Nice creamy sauce and a quick weeknight meatless dinner. This would also make a nice side pasta dish as well. The peppery taste of the baby arugula goes well with the goat cheese and chives. This one goes into my rotation.

Granville W.

As a well seasoned professional chef and know a culinary college instructor I find your TV shop and web page a treasure trove of good information. My wife and enjoy having our Saturday morning coffee and watching your show. All your assistants have great personalities and we enjoy them all. Keep up the great passion for food and exploration.
Granville & Susie Wood

Jarrod C.

Does it make a difference if when I bring the water to a boil, the pasta already in the bowl that i'm bringing to a boil?

Lynn C.

Hi Jarrod -

We aren't 100% sure what your question is. Are you asking if you should add the water and the pasta to the pot and then bring it to a boil? If so, the answer is "no." You want to bring the water to a boil, add the salt, and then add the pasta.

The Milk Street Team

Melissa J.

My husband’s allergic to walnuts. Can you suggest some substitutions?

Lynn C.

Hi Melissa -

Assuming he's not allergic to other nut, you could use pecans or almonds. If he's allergic to all tree nuts, I would simply omit the nuts.

The Milk Street Team