Wheat Pasta w/ Apricots, Sage, and Goat Cheese

Happy belated Turkey Day! Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday, and anyone could guess why. THE FOOD. It's just the perfect holiday, in the perfect month (my birthday month), with the perfect weather, and the perfect people. I mean come on.. what sounds more relaxing than a week off of all usual duties (school, work, etc.), and just doing the thing you love most (cooking) with the people you love most, eating the food you love most, and enjoying the season (you love most)'s cool weather. That's why it's my favorite. Well maybe not so much on the relaxing side as my family gets CRAZY the hours before our mid-day turkey feast. But still, it's the best holiday and even watching Deck the Halls on loop, eating endless amounts of my grandmother's gingerbread cake, and smelling the evergreen of our Christmas tree all December long can't beat it. I meant to do a post about Thanksgiving but I failed to take pictures and things just got so crazy so it didn't happen. But I will blog about it real quick. So every year we all pitch in on what Thanksgiving staple we're cooking once we get to my grandma's house. For my Aunt Camilla it's her mashed potatoes and boiled green beans, for Aunt Sarah it's her 7-layer salad which I had for the first time this year, my Uncle Greg and oldest brother Strack tackle the green bean casserole and my mom works on the stuffing/dressing and the two-sided sweet potato casserole (to suit both the marshmallow topping fans and the pecan streusel fans). That leaves me with the whipped cream, and my favorite, next to the sweet potato casserole, the cranberry sauce and this year a new recipe; Sage and White Cheddar Gruyere Corn Casserole. All the while Nana watches over her kids and grandkids preparing the sides to her beautiful turkey and her DIVINE homemade rolls soaked in butter she always pulls together. On top of that she makes so many pies, pumpkin, pecan, and apple (multiple of each), and sauerkraut. This year she also took the task of cranberry sauce because she saw two new recipes she wanted to try, pear and ginger cranberry sauce and mustard seed cranberry sauce, both were delicious, but I was more of the ginger pear because I like my cranberry sauce chunky. Well anyways, for my recipe inspiration I picked a few recipes out and kind of mashed them together with a twist of my own. Remembering the sage in my corn casserole last year, and the creamy corn casserole recipe I found from another blog without the Jiffy cornbread, I pulled together a creamy, incredibly rich, cheesy corn dish at the last minute, literally. I was so worried it wouldn't cook in time because I was forced to take it out before the center set completely but luckily all went as planned, and Thanksgiving was terrific. I did miss my cousin, Ryan, and her new husband (I guess you'd call him a cousin-in-law?) as they're currently in Belize, on their honeymoon. But I'll post the corn casserole recipe and my yummy leftover snack I had later that night in another post.

Here we go... the reason my blog is named "Apricots and Sage" is for this meal right here. Or any meal I use apricots in, really. I can't help it. Every time I cook apricots in a savory dish (usually with chicken), I have to add sage. Every. Single. Time. I just LOVE the combination. So tonight, I cooked part of our dinner. Not feeling like cooking the chicken we had already had out for white chicken chili but eventually decided against, I told my dad to roast it with just some lemon, olive oil, and Cavender's.
Before roasted.

 I had originally wanted to make stuffed chicken of some sort but the chicken was on the bone and it would've been too much of a mess to try to butcher it. So my mom suggested that I make a risotto or pasta dish on the side, and so I did...

And it was delicious. Creamy, smoky, tangy, perfectly perfumed from the earthiness of the sage, and a little sweet from the apricots. The perfect pasta dish with a little bit more nutrients from the wheat pasta to make up for this past weekend's splurge. Also, I was just feeling wheat pasta, and I barely ever eat white pasta now. Another thing that I'm super proud of is the fact that I actually completed this dish in less than 30 minutes. Which is a great accomplishment for me because every time I cook anything I seem to be in the kitchen for more than two hours, which is fine with me... It is my favorite place to be.

So if you need a quick light side dish, or a rich main course of creamy pasta that's also delicious and something different, here it is:

Wheat Pasta w/ Apricots, Sage, and Goat Cheese (serves 4)

wheat pasta of choice (I used penne)
about 3/4 cup dried apricots
4 oz. semi-soft goat cheese
salt and pepper
2 tsp. dried rubbed sage
1/4 tsp. dried cayenne pepper
1/2 sweet onion- diced
1 clove garlic- minced
3/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup water (preferably pasta water)
3 tbs. white wine
2 tbs. champagne vinegar
1 tsp. minced fresh jalapeno
1 tbs. EVOO

Bring a pot of water to a boil with salt and cook pasta until al dente.
Rehydrate the apricots in a bowl of lukewarm water for roughly 5 minutes to soften them. Once done, dry and cut into quarter pieces.
In a heated large saucepan with the olive oil over medium heat, add the jalapeno, onions, and garlic. Stir until everything is coated in oil and let cook down until soft on low. Add the chicken stock, champagne vinegar, apricots, white wine, and spices. Stir and cover over medium heat for about 5-8 minutes or until cooked down and the apricots are fully infused and softened. Season to taste. Add the pasta water slowly if needed. Strain pasta and add into the sauce. Coat evenly. Over low heat, add in chunks of the goat cheese. Start slowly and stir until it coats all the pasta. Use as little or as much goat cheese as you want. I probably used a little less than 4 oz. Serve immediately.

Okay so I will admit. Not the most appetizing looking dish I've made on camera. But in person... it was gorgeous.
The white wine and champagne vinegar gave the perfect aroma to the dish, and the jalapeno and cayenne pepper gave a slightly smoky bite. I even went back for seconds which I try to no longer do with pastas, especially ones with lots of creamy (delicious) cheeses!

Also, In about 5 minutes, after I post this, I'm starting to read the book "French Women Don't Get Fat" by Mirelle Guiliano. My mom showed it to me today when I was cooking and complaining about how I really want to cook our way through 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking' but didn't want to gain every ounce of fat back that I lost by eating so much butter...


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