Back to the Future: Wolfgang Puck Pasta

California-Style Pasta with Thyme and Goat Cheese

Way back in the ‘80’s my favorite meal was a roast beef sandwich on a toasted “bulky” roll, which in parts of the world other than Rhode Island would be known as a Kaiser, smothered with mushrooms, piled high with salty meat and so juicy the bulky would be saturated and falling to pieces after just two bites. I’d get them at Chelo’s, a chain of local restaurants.

I’m dating myself here, but that was a quarter of a century ago. I was in high school, my hair was big, and if you’d offered me a pizza with goat cheese on it I know I would’ve looked at you funny.

At the same time, Wolfgang Puck was in Hollywood creating California cuisine - pulling pizzas out of wood-burning ovens and serving salads as entrees at his legendary restaurant Spago.

Look how we’ve grown up! I now love goat cheese, Wolfgang Puck has become as much a brand name as Chef Boyardee, and you can walk into your local mini-mart, grab a frozen Wolfgang Puck pizza, microwave it and eat it in the car (I’m not saying that’s a good thing).

The August issue of Food & Wine has a feature story about Puck, which got me interested in this recipe. Apparently, this was the first pasta dish on the menu at Spago and put goat cheese on America’s culinary map.

I haven’t had a roast beef sandwich in years, but I did have a look at the 2007 Chelo’s menu – the sandwich is still there - along with Asian grilled salmon on California mesclun greens.

Capellini with Goat Cheese, Thyme and Toasted Pine Nuts

Inspired by Wolfgang Puck

12 ounces dried capellini pasta
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces soft goat cheese
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
Thyme sprigs, for garnish

Cook the capellini in a large pot of boiling salted water.

Meanwhile, bring the broth to a boil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the thyme and simmer until reduced by half. Lower heat, stir in the butter and goat cheese until melted and smooth.

Drain the capellini and add to the skillet, tossing to coat with sauce.

Twirl the capellini into portions with a large serving fork or tongs and place on individual plates. Sprinkle with pine nuts and garnish with thyme, if you like.

Serves 4-6.

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Copyright (c) 2007 FamilyStyle Food


C(h)ristine said...

Wonderful--I love reading this recipe! It looks so simple now, and yet back then it was certainly groundbreaking food.

...Though I have always thought that Alice Waters (and Jeremiah Towers) over at Chez Panisse really forged California Cuisine--but who knows.

valentinA said...

Hmm, this looks yum. And I've got a whole packet of pine nuts resting in my fridge in case they go bad. I know in which dish to use them now!:)

Karen said...

Christine, thanks!

You're right; Alice and Jeremiah Tower were doing the California thing right around the same time.

And I think Alice first installed a wood-burning pizza oven, which then gave Puck the idea.

Karen said...

Valentina, I toasted a bunch of pine nuts too and have been trying to sprinkle a little on everything before they get stale...although refrigeration helps stall the process a bit.

K & S said...

What a great blog you have! Thanks for stopping by my blog too. I especially like the lavender lemonade recipe, may have to bookmark it. :)

Valli said...

All my favourite flavours rolled into one easy to prepare dish!!! I enjoyed reading your post about Wolfgang Puck!!

Lisa said...

Love the comparison with Chef Boyardee! Kidding aside, this looks like a wonderful dish.

Karen said...

Kat, thanks! I'll be checking in on you in Japan...

Valli, I'm glad you like it - I can't resist goat cheese, and if there's pasta involved, well.