Pasta is one of those things: quick & easy “fast food” for a weeknight dinner, a great base for showcasing your summer preserving efforts, but, unless it’s homemade, I rarely consider it spectacular. Tasty, filling, comforting, yes; but impressive enough to convince dinner guests of my kitchen prowess (she says, oh-so modestly)? Not so much. Until now.
Add to my list of picky-eaterisms cream sauces, or heavy cream in general, unless it is whipped, baked or frozen. I’m not a fan of cream-based soups, nor cream-based meat sauces (talk about gilding the lily). I’ll take a really good tomato sauce over fettucino alfredo any day. So, believe me when I tell you, that though this dish is made with goat’s milk instead of cream, it is creamy, it is flavorful, it is delicious. I would serve this to guests in a heartbeat and they would sing my praises to the culinary gods (again: Modesty. My middle name.). When I tell you that this dish took less than 30 minutes to prepare (a miracle for me, as I think they named “slow food” after me in the kitchen), yet was still impressive enough for company, you’re going to want to know the secret, right? Right.
Wild garlic chives. Well, not just the chives; it was the goat’s milk, (which lent a lovely tang that I just don’t think you’ll get from cow’s milk or cream), the wine, the lemon, the parmesan. It was everything, really: but mostly the chives. They grow along the edge of my driveway, and since they self-seed, they spread more and more each year. Can I just tell you how much I adore free, delicious food that requires nothing from me except to enjoy it? A lot. Garlic chives have large, flat greyish-green blades that look a lot like grass, except they are fatter and more stiff. When you break a blade in half and smell it, you’ll smell the tell-tale oniony scent that tells you there is nothing to fear. I only recognized mine once they flowered (the flowers also have a lovely, mild garlic flavor and are wonderful in Springtime salads).
Wild foods are amazing in that, even though you can identify a familiar flavor (onion, garlic, chive), they taste so different, so unique, so wild. It really defies description, but to me, it’s like adding salt to a dish: it takes everything up a notch. So take a stroll around your backyard, your city park, your neighborhood woods. Keep your eyes peeled for little green mohawks, clumped together and sticking out of last Fall’s dead leaves. Or ask at your farmer’s market; many farmers harvest and sell the wild edible. Either way, it is worth seeking out the wild garlic chive. Because just 30 minutes of effort for a spectacular dinner? Worth it every time.
- 1/2 lb spaghetti (I use whole wheat)
- 1 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped red onion
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 – 4 cups baby spinach leaves, packed
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup whole goat’s milk
- 1 tbsp whole wheat pastry flour (or AP flour)
- zest & juice from 1/2 a lemon
- 1/4 cup chopped garlic chives, plus extra for garnish
- 4 oz parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- about 1/2 tsp each of salt and freshly grated black pepper
- Boil the spaghetti in plenty of salted water until al dente. Drain pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water; toss pasta and cover to keep warm.
- In a large skillet, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat until foam subsides. Add onions, lower heat to medium-low, and sauté until onions begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add spinach, stir, and sauté until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add wine and bring mixture to a simmer.
- In a small bowl, add about 1/4 cup of the milk and the flour. Whisk briskly until you see no clumps. Add milk/flour mixture, remaining milk, lemon juice and garlic chives to the skillet. Stir (stir briskly if sauce begins to separate) and simmer until sauce thickens slightly, about 3 – 5 minutes. Add cheese, a handful at a time, and stir to incorporate; stop adding when the sauce is thick enough for you (save some for garnishing. To thin the sauce, if necessary, add some of the reserved pasta water.) Add cooked spaghetti and toss with tongs to coat.
- Add lemon zest, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve hot, garnished with additional parmesan and garlic chives.
Serves 4 as a main course.
- The original recipe called for heavy cream, but less butter/oil and less cheese. The fat content probably balances out in the end, but I really liked the flavor of the goat’s milk in this dish.
- I only had about 2 cups of baby spinach in the fridge, but the dish would have been just as good with more. Try to stick to a baby spinach or other, milder, green, rather than the heartier kale or arugula, which may overwhelm the flavor of the chives.
- Wild garlic chives have a unique flavor, a bit more oniony than a regular chive, but a bit more garlicky than a scallion. The flavor is delicate, but pervasive. It’s well worth seeking them out for this dish. If you cannot source garlic chives, a mixture of regular chives and green garlic, or regular chives and scallions, would be a substitute.
- It probably goes without saying, but ramps, both the greens and the bulbs, would be fabulous in this dish.
Refrigerated for up to 3 days.
Garlic chives show up in the Spring, in yards, forests and farmer’s markets.