Meatless Monday: linguine with asparagus, tomatoes, and goat cheese

This quick vegetarian pasta dish makes the most of in-season-now asparagus and gets a bright flavor boost from balsamic vinegar.

Blue Kitchen
Linguine tossed with asparagus, cherry tomatoes, and goat cheese.

We were in St. Louis a few weeks ago, visiting our friends Rich and Laura. As usual, we ate lots of good food there. Scoops of Ozark black walnut ice cream at Crown Candy Kitchen. Heart healthy (and satisfying) egg white breakfast sandwiches at the bustling Nadoz Euro Bakery and Cafe. Local, seasonal-focused classic French cuisine at Franco, housed in the former Welsh Baby Carriage Factory across the street from Soulard Market.

But our favorite meal was prepared in our friends’ hardworking, beautiful open kitchen. Laura is a vegetarian whose diet skews mostly vegan, with detours into pescetarian. That doesn’t keep her from cooking meat for her omnivorous family and friends, though. 

The meal in question involved a wonderful mushroom-stuffed rolled pork tenderloin, pan seared, then roasted. Don’t be surprised if a version turns up here one day. As delicious as the tenderloin was, this week’s recipe was inspired by her show-stealing side dish – steamed asparagus topped with sautéed grape tomatoes finished with garlic and balsamic vinegar and topped with dollops of goat cheese. The big flavors of the tomatoes and asparagus are enhanced by the vinegar, and everything is balanced by the creamy goat cheese. To give it a starring role, I turned this flavorful side into a vegetarian pasta main course.

Asparagus is in season now, beckoning from produce shelves everywhere. For this dish, you don’t need the pencil-skinny spears, but you definitely don’t want the chunky asparagus cigars (I mean seriously, who ever wants those?). Skinny to medium spears will work best.

For the tomatoes, smallish grape tomatoes are best. If all you can get are cherry tomatoes, halve them before cooking.

Linguine with Asparagus, Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

Serves 2

12 to 16 asparagus spears, tough ends trimmed, cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces (about 1-1/2 cups)


7 ounces linguine (or fettuccine or spaghetti)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1-1/2 cups cherry tomatoes

Freshly ground black pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 tablespoon fresh)

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 ounces goat cheese

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. When it comes to a full boil, blanch the asparagus pieces by dumping them in the pot of water, cooking them for 1 minute, then transferring them to a bowl of iced water with a slotted spoon.

2. Cook the pasta to al dente, following the package instructions. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large nonstick sauté pan over medium flame. Add the tomatoes and sauté until they begin to soften, burst and brown slightly, stirring frequently, about 4 to 5 minutes.

3. Drain the asparagus pieces and add them to the pan. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes. Season with a generous grind of black pepper. Add garlic and oregano to pan and cook, stirring, until just fragrant, about 45 seconds. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar.

5. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water. Add pasta to asparagus and tomato mixture and toss to coat. If the dish seems dry, add pasta water 2 tablespoons at a time as needed. Taste and adjust seasonings. Divide between two pasta bowls, crumble goat cheese over pasta and serve.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to