Pasta shells with tomatoes and chèvre

13 infamous April Fools’ Day hoaxes
FreeImages.com/Patrick Moore
6. Spaghetti tree harvest -- In 1957, the BBC current affairs program "Panorama" featured a three-minute clip describing the "exceptionally heavy spaghetti crop" in Switzerland. The clip showed what was purported to be Swiss farmers harvesting spaghetti strands from trees and laying them in the sun to dry. The prank tricked hundreds of viewers who called the BBC asking how their very own spaghetti bush to grow the food at home.

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 saute 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.

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