I wish I was creative and innovative enough to come up with this recipe all on my own, but alas it's a recreation from my all-time-favorite restaurant ever, Lula Cafe, in Logan Square. To be honest, it wasn't even love at first bite with this place. I fell in love with the restaurant after we found out we were moving to Chicago and a friend told me I have to try their vegetarian tasting menu. Yeah, vegetarian tasting menu. It's six of the most interesting, creative, tasty vegetable-focused dishes you will ever eat. I ordered it for our 3 year anniversary back in October and it was everything.
Nate ordered this dish the first time we ate there. "Pasta YiaYia", as it's listed on their menu, is a creamy combination of salty whipped feta, crispy brown garlic, and warm cinnamon. Cinnamon in pasta? I know, I was skeptical at first too but it's ridiculously good. I crunched things up by adding some warm toasted walnuts, and result is just as good as the original. It's the perfect comforting, warm dish for cold winter nights and comes together in literally 20 minutes.
8 ounces fusilli caserecci (or pasta shape of your choice)
1.5 ounces chopped walnuts (see notes), ~ 1/3 cup
3.5 ounces feta
3-4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
1. Bring a large stockpot of heavily salted water to a boil.
2. Meanwhile, place the walnuts in a pan over medium heat and cook until slightly browned and very fragrant, tossing occasionally. Once walnuts are toasted, remove from pan and set aside.
3. Using the same pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat, then toss in the garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally until the garlic slices are golden brown. Once browned, remove the pan from heat and set aside.
4. Once the water is boiling, cook the pasta until al dente (reserve the pasta water).
5. While the pasta is cooking, place the feta in either the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment (you can also use a hand-mixer). Whisk the feta at medium speed until smooth and creamy. Just before the pasta is done, scoop 2 tablespoons of pasta water and whisk it into the feta.
6. Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl, top with feta mixture, toasted walnuts, garlic, parmesan and cinnamon. Toss and serve, topping each serving with a light dusting of more cinnamon and parmesan.
You could totally substitute any nuts you have on hand, I think this dish would be especially good with hazelnuts! I splurged a bit on the awesomely shaped pasta from Eataly, but seriously any pasta shape will do, even gluten-free pasta works well - this is our favorite.