The noodles were already boiling at 6 o'clock. Thanks to a quart of homemade spaghetti sauce given to me by my dear Aunt Flo, an unusual calm blanketed the kitchen. For a few moments.

I opened the refrigerator, and in eerie slow motion, watched Aunt Flo's jar of sauce roll from the bottom shelf to the floor and shatter.Involuntary thoughts surged from this dark moment of motherhood: "Just a few shards won't hurt. Glass is really fiber, right?"

But sanity prevailed as Desperate Situation No. 251 began to take shape. I cleaned up the mess and scrounged through the refrigerator. Nothing there but an unopened package of goat cheese purchased out of curiosity a month before. In the pantry there was a jar of roasted red peppers, and a few chopped walnuts were stashed in the freezer.

What would happen if I mixed the drained, hot noodles with the chevre and tossed in some chopped peppers and nuts?

What happened was my only stroke of luck that day. The combination of creamy goat cheese mixed with the noodles and peppers reminded me of a slightly sophisticated Southern pimento cheese, yet the flavors of this dish were mild enough even for children.

Goat cheese (or "chevre" for gourmets) is now on my A-list of desperation ingredients. Often found in the supermarket deli, you can store it unopened in the refrigerator for two months; plus, it's one of those star indulgences that upgrades everything it touches.

Today's recipe is simple to throw together, but the results are truly special. Don't wait for dinner to fall on the floor before you try it.

Menu: Penne with Chevre and Roasted Red Peppers, tossed salad, garlic toast.




8 ounces penne pasta

1 jar (7 ounces) roasted red peppers

3 ounces semi-soft or soft chevre (goat cheese)

1/4 cup already-chopped nuts, such as walnuts, pecans or almonds

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

salt and black pepper to taste, optional

Place the penne in 2-1/2 quarts of already-boiling unsalted water and cook until tender, 11 to 13 minutes.

Meanwhile, drain the juice from the red peppers and place them in a 3-quart or larger bowl. Use 2 knives to cut the peppers into bite-size pieces. Cut the cheese into 1/4-inch slices (approximately) and add it to the bowl. Add the walnuts and dried basil. Stir well.

When the penne is tender, drain it and add to the serving bowl. Stir until the cheese melts and the noodles are coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste, if desired. Serve at once. Serves 4.

- Approximate Values Per Serving: 385 calories (28 percent from fat), 12 g fat (5 g saturated), 17 mg cholesterol, 14 g protein, 54 g carbohydrates, 0.7 g dietary fiber, 112 mg sodium.