Penne all’arrabbiata (“angry” pasta) relies on a simple tomato sauce made fiery with dried red chilies. Garlic is permitted; cheese is frowned on. Being a cheese person, I ignore that and reach for the pecorino. When a sample of Laura Chenel’s Spicy Cabecou landed on my doorstep the other day, I thought of another way to make pasta angry. Garden tomatoes and basil, good olive oil, capers, nuggets of cabecou…such an easy no-cook sauce for hot pasta.
I’ve been a fan of Laura Chenel’s herb-marinated goat cabecou for a while, but the spicy version, with jalapeño oil and crushed red chilies, was new to me. Both come packed in a 6.2-ounce plastic tub with a handle, which screams “picnic.” There’s a new black-truffle version, too, if you’re picnicking with swells.
The company used to pack the cabecou in 100% extra virgin olive oil, but consumers didn’t like that the oil congealed in the fridge. Now the marinade is part canola oil so it doesn’t solidify when chilled. I’m disappointed—there’s definitely some flavor loss—but I can understand why the company didn’t want to fight that battle.
French cabécou is an individual little cheese with a delicate rind. Laura Chenel’s cabecou is rindless. The disks, which weigh about an ounce or a tad more, are sliced from a fresh goat log, air-dried for several days and then packed in the tubs with seasonings and oil.
I like to warm these little guys for about 5 minutes in a moderate oven. They get all quivery and are easy to spread on crostini.
After you eat the cheese, save the oil. Use the thyme- and rosemary-scented oil from the herbed cabecou in salad dressing or drizzled over fish. Drizzle the fiery oil from the Spicy Cabecou on pasta or on cooked broccoli rabe or chard.
Angry Penne with Tomatoes and Spicy Goat Cheese
Adapted from Pasta Harvest by Janet Fletcher (Chronicle Books).
1-1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled (optional), halved and seeded
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, very finely minced
3 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed and chopped
Kosher or sea salt
1 pound dried penne or spaghetti
Fresh basil leaves
1 jar (6.2 oz) Laura Chenel’s Spicy Cabecou
Cut the tomato halves into thin wedges. Put them in a large serving bowl with the olive oil, garlic, capers and salt to taste. Stir to blend.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Just before the pasta is ready, tear the basil into small pieces and add to the tomatoes. Drain the cabecou, reserving the oil for another use, and crumble the cheese coarsely into the bowl.
Drain the pasta and immediately add it to the bowl. Toss, taste for salt and serve.
Serves 4 to 6