Testing Recipes – Linguine with Spinach, Olives and Goat Cheese

So if I’m going to be teaching cooking classes, I have to make sure I’m using top-notch recipes, right? And if I need to use top-notch recipes, then I have to make sure that these recipes are in fact top-notch, right? And if I’m going to be writing a cookbook, then I REALLY have to make sure these recipes are the top of the top-notch, right?


OK, time to start inventing in the kitchen!
Note: That’s not me…

So how exactly do I test all these recipes to make sure they’re really that good?… Well, the answer may surprise you.

As far as using recipes in classes are concerned, many times those are recipes that I have either made once, or have just come up with. Once you’re able to write recipes from scratch, you have a good mind set of what works and what doesn’t. So writing a recipe in my style using the ingredients and techniques that I want to highlight in my class really isn’t that hard. And if I have any doubts as to measurement ratios or cooking times/temperatures, I usually consult one of my many cookbooks I have laying around just to make sure I’m on target.

Now I’m not saying that the recipes are perfect every time, but they are always pretty darn good, and definitely of the quality necessary for one of my classes. If my students are going to shell out good money for a class, they’re going to get good recipes. Simple as that.


The word you’re looking for is “Yum”.

Case in point, I recently taught a class on game meats at Open Kitchen called, “It’s How you Play the Game.” (Cute, huh?…) Anyway, the recipes for this class were all ones I made up from my past cooking experiences. None of the recipes had ever been “tested” per se, but they were all based on things I had cooked many times before. The menu was:

  • Venison Loin Steaks with Cranberry-Rosemary Reduction
  • Roasted Pheasant Stuffed with Apple Onion and Thyme
  • Braised Rabbit Ragu on Papparadelle

Yes, they were every bit as good as they sound. The results were really quite great, and when the class was done, there were only a few minor modifications to the recipes that I thought needed to happen. (And of course I shared those changes with my students as well.) Simply put, one run through the menu, and I have three “tried and true” recipes ready to go!

But that’s not all. See, since I’m writing a cookbook as well, I want to make sure these recipes are not only great, but that students who read the recipes can make them as well based on how I’ve written them. And thus my students are sometimes testing my cookbook recipes as well. If I notice any directions that people can’t seem to follow, then I know I need to fix the wording on that part of the recipe.

Of course this is not to say that I don’t regularly test out recipes on my friends and family. I mean come on, if you’re going to have a chef in your family, you’d better be getting some good food out of the deal.

But all this talk of trying out recipes has left me with another idea. I want to try out a recipe, and I’d love to see if you all would give it a shot, and see how it’s working for me! So I’m including a recipe here, and I’d love for you to make it at home on your own time.

Make it, tell me how it worked out, anything you thought needed improvement or clarification, and then put your results in the comment section. You get a free recipe, I get free recipe testers! It’s win-win, and I’d love to know both if this recipe works, and if you all are willing to do this for me!

Linguine with Spinach, Olives and Goat Cheese
1 lb                  linguine
5 Tbsp            olive oil
2 cloves         garlic – minced
1 Tbsp            capers – drained and rinsed
1 cup              sliced black olives
½-1 tsp          red pepper flakes
8 oz                 baby spinach leaves
3 oz                 crumbled goat cheese
As needed     freshly grated Parmesan

-In large pot of boiling salted water, add spaghetti and begin cooking.
-In large skillet, over medium high heat, heat oil and add garlic, capers, olives and red pepper. (It may splatter some, so be careful and have a screen on hand…)
-When olives are heated through – about one minute – add spinach and cook down, stirring regularly. Keep warm over low heat until pasta is done.
-When pasta is done, strain, and add to skillet with spinach and olives. Toss to combine thoroughly over low heat.
-Stir in crumbled goat cheese, allowing it to melt through over low heat.
-Serve immediately, topped with Parmesan.

I call this recipe “Pasta alla Swan” as my girlfriend, Susan (whose nickname is “Swan”), was the inspiration behind it. As a result, I think I look with eyes that are too romantically clouded when trying to think rationally about this recipe. So give it a shot people! Please make it, and of course, tell me all about it.

How many times do you get to be a contributing editor to a cookbook anyway?…

Chef Matt

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6 Responses to “Testing Recipes – Linguine with Spinach, Olives and Goat Cheese”

  1. Judith (Jude) Bienvenu says:

    Would love to help out any way I can, especially on restricted diet angle (gluten free, vegan, etc etc etc).

    I’d vote for a better pic of you too – a facemask doesn’t do you justice… ;-)

    -J

    • Chef Matt says:

      Jude, thanks so much. You do raise a good point that a lot of recipes these days perhaps need the gluten free alternative. Since the focus of this book will likely be Italian, is there a gluten free pasta that you recommend? I’d love to try it, (maybe a few brands) and then offer those as suggestions for those who want to have great Italian food, but alas can’t enjoy gluten.

      And I have already shaved the goatee. It was just something I was doing to pass the time. :)

      • Karen says:

        People seem to like that rice pasta, but it doesn’t keep very well. If it is made, it should be consumed in one serving not kept in the refrigerator to be eaten over several days as we usually do with pasta in my house! It gets sort of soft and goopy.

  2. Chef,
    Made the recipe last night. It was great!
    I modified it a little: left out the capers (not one of our favorites). After adding the pasta and tossing…it was a little dry. I added some of the pasta water that I had reserved (kept it from turning too much like wallpaper paste). Gotta be honest: may not have had enough olive oil. I was eyeballing the ingredients. The goat cheese and parmesan cheese blended well, leaving us with a wonderful lingering taste.
    Thanks for sharing. Always looking for new recipes to try…keep ‘em comin’, and glad to see you back!
    What do you have in store for us for the Holidays?

    • Chef Matt says:

      John, thanks so much for your testing the recipe. I too have had issues with it being a bit dry, and I think the addition of pasta water and more olive oil is a good one. I’ll try again with those variations. And thank you for coming back to the blog and being a part of the community. For the holidays, I have a few family recipes I’ll be leaking out here and there I hope. And of course, some class ideas for a great Holiday Feast!

  3. We are still planning to test this recipe for you! I promise. The holidays sort of got in the way, but we’re looking forward to getting back in our kitchen and cooking again. Happy 2011!