Pasta shells with tomatoes and chèvre

FreeImages.com/Patrick Moore

The fresh, tangy taste of chèvre cheese and its creamy texture combine beautifully with tomatoes and herbs. If you wish, before adding the chicken broth mixture, toss cooked shrimp with the pasta shells. (Shell, devein, and poach fresh shrimp or use frozen shrimp that have been thawed.) This dish is elegant simplicity at its best.

12 ounces medium (½- to 1-inch) pasta shells (about 4 ½ cups)

1 tablespoon olive oil

¼ cup finely chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tomatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

½ cup chicken broth

1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme, or ½ teaspoon dried thyme

2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary, or ½ teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste

Dash of salt, or to taste

3 ounces chèvre cheese

garnish (optional): freshly ground pepper, sprigs of fresh thyme

 

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat; add salt, then the pasta shells. When the water returns to a boil, stir occasionally to separate the shells. Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook for about 9 to 11 minutes, or according to package instructions, until al dente.

While the shells are cooking, heat the oil in a large nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes; stir until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth, thyme, rosemary, pepper, and salt; cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

When the shells are done, drain well; return to the pot. Add the chicken broth mixture and toss over medium heat until heated through. Remove from the heat. Add the chèvre cheese; stir gently until it is melted. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Paulette Mitchell, a culinary instructor, television personality, spokesperson, freelance food writer, and the award-winning author of 13 cookbooks, is known internationally for her quick-to-prepare recipes with gourmet flair. Paulette's most recently published cookbook is "The Complete 15-Minute Gourmet: Creative Cuisine Made Fast and Fresh." She is also the author of "A Beautiful Bowl of Soup" and "The Spirited Vegetarian," which was voted "Best Book in the World on Cooking with Wine" at the 2005 Gourmand World Media Awards. Paulette says that international travel is her favorite source of culinary inspiration.