Sunday, September 11, 2011

Pasta with Spinach and Baked Camembert

A fabulously easy option for entertaining, this Camembert baked with garlic and rosemary is set on the table where guests can help themselves to a spoonful or two to drizzle over pasta that's been tossed with baby spinach. 

Last night it was my distinct and utmost pleasure to cook dinner for my elder daughter and her friends. Their cozy hallway kitchen had all the necessary tools despite its compact size and the company was superb.

Our menu included the pasta, fresh Rhode Island-grown grape tomato salad and strawberries and cream.

The fun for me started in Eastside Marketplace where I got to peruse their fresh produce and extensive selection of dried goods. I can see why it has been voted best local market for so many years. With a large Whole Foods in one direction and Eastside Marketplace in the other, the Brown and RISD students are spoiled for choice.

This recipe comes originally from one of Jamie Oliver’s books. I think it might have been Ministry of Food, but don’t quote me.

1 X 250g box of Camembert cheese – you want one with the wooden box
2 cloves of garlic
1-2 sprigs fresh rosemary
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
100g of Parmesan
16 oz or 500g dried rigatoni or penne pasta
150g or three good handfuls of fresh spinach

Preheat over to 180°C (350°F) degrees. Open the box of cheese and unwrap it. Place it back in the wooden container. (I suggest lining with foil first! The first time I made this, my box popped the side and my cheese melted all over the foil-lined pan that I had put it in.) Score a circle in the top of the skin, then lift it off and discard.

Peel and finely slice the garlic. Pick the rosemary leaves off the woody stalk. Lay the garlic slices on top of the cheese, sprinkle with some pepper and drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil.

Scatter over the rosemary leaves and gently pat with your fingers to coat them in the oil. Grate the Parmesan.

Place the box of cheese on a baking tray and put it into the preheated oven for 25 minutes, until golden and melted.

(Mine was well melted after only 20 minutes so watch it.) Meanwhile, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. When your cheese has 10 minutes left to cook, add the pasta to the pan and cook according to the packet instructions. When the pasta is cooked, add the spinach to the pan – it only needs cooking for 10 seconds or so. Drain the pasta and spinach in a colander over a large bowl, reserving some of the cooking water. (I forgot to add the spinach before I drained the pasta and found that it wilted just as nicely when added to the pot of hot pasta with the lid on.)

Drizzle with a couple of good glugs of olive oil and add the grated Parmesan. (I probably should review a recipe before I decide to make it again after many months, but I didn’t. Anyhow, I also completely forgot this part yesterday and didn’t even buy Parmesan, but in the past I have left out the last part of this step anyway and let everyone add Parmesan at the table. Some like it, some don’t in my family.) If you do add the grated Parmesan here and the sauce is too thick, add a splash of the reserved cooking water to thin it out a bit. Season with salt and pepper and give it a good stir. Remove the cheese from the oven.

Divide the pasta between your serving bowls. Either drizzle the melted Camembert on top or pop the box of cheese on the table and let everyone help themselves to a lovely, gooey spoonful.


Everyone served themselves last night and then fought over the last vestiges of cheese while doing the dishes. We finished the evening sipping red wine, sharing funny stories and listening to Johnny Cash. Bliss.

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