French in a Flash: Pasta with Sweet Pea Pistou and Chèvre Recipe

French in a Flash

Quick and easy recipes that prove that great French food doesn't require a tall hat and a fancy kitchen.

French in a Flash: Pasta with Sweet Pea Pistou and Ch\u00e8vre Recipe

[Photograph: Kerry Saretsky]

It's April, so no matter what happens, it's officially spring. Pistou is a sauce from the south of France made from fresh basil, garlic, olive oil, and sometimes cheese and tomato. It's so garlicky that whatever pasta it finds itself wrapped around falls limp on the plate in garlic shock overload—in a good way.

I put a little twist on pistou by adding sweet peas. The sauce is whizzed together in the food processor while the pasta cooks on the stove. It's pungent from the garlic (must have the garlic), sweet from the peas, and salty from the Pecorino Romano (not quite French, but a must). The thick pistou clogs the twists of the corkscrew pasta and gushes as you bite into it. And as a final oh-my-gosh, I add creamy fresh goat cheese, a big springtime ingredient, that melts its tanginess into ribbons that fleck the hot pasta.

You could eat this in a big bowl by itself or serve this with anything—next to baked chicken or grilled fish, or anything simple like that. You will certainly have a spring in your step after this one.

  • Yield:serves 4 to 6
  • Active time: 10 minutes
  • Total time:10 minutes, plus the time it takes to boil water


  • 1 pound fusilli pasta
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup coarsely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 pound thawed frozen peas
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 ounces fresh goat cheese


  1. 1.

    Bring a large pot of water to boil, and salt the water. Cook the pasta in the boiling water until al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup pasta water.

  2. 2.

    Meanwhile, whiz together the garlic, basil, and pine nuts in the food processor until completely obliterated. Add the olive oil and Pecorino, and whiz to combine. Add the peas, and season with salt and pepper. Purée until completely smooth.

  3. 3.

    Spoon the pea pistou into a large bowl. Use a spider to lift the hot fusilli into the bowl, and toss. You will probably need to add 2 to 4 tablespoons of pasta water to loosen the sauce. When the pasta is thoroughly tossed in the sauce, crumble in the goat cheese, and toss it enough to warm it through, but you still want to see pockets of the cheese.