Creamy Havarti Pasta with Mushrooms and Cauliflower

I love the holidays - the food and the gatherings. Everything just feels a little warmer, a little cozier, and a little more earthy with the all the fresh garland and wreaths scattered about. I'd also like to add that all the pine needles all over my floor are also really adding to the festiveness. (How do you get pine needles to stop falling from the tree?)

Because we normally go home for the holidays, I'm usually able to put my feet up and enjoy other people's planning. Occasionally, I'll step in and help put out fires - usually when there have been one too many boozy eggnogs thrown into the mix. But this year, I am the one organizing, planning, and hosting - so no eggnog for me? In all seriousness, though, I cannot recreate Thanksgiving. I just don't have the tolerance for day drinking.

Naturally, I feel like all this holiday planning should be stressing me out, but surprisingly, I feel pretty calm and relaxed about the whole thing, except for the needles that seem to be dropping at a fast rate off of my Christmas tree. That's actually kind of stressing me.

I've already started planning Christmas eve, Christmas day, and New Year's day dinner. I've bookmarked a lot of new recipes I'd like to try in the next three weeks, and with my in-laws visiting, it is the perfect opportunity to use them as taste-testers. Although, they would never actually tell me if they didn't like a recipe. There are themes, and appetizers, and fancy mixed drinks. I'm going to attempt to use a pretty new linen tablecloth that I made, but in all honesty, I think I'm too neurotic for a tablecloth. I'm the type of person that needs a tablecloth for my tablecloth. I'm just hoping that I don't totally overwhelm myself this year and swear off holiday entertaining for life.

I have a few semi-elaborate recipes in the works, ones that take a special kind of attention to detail, but I also have a few easier dishes in my repertoire, ones that I like to use for those lower-key holiday gatherings. Cute little appetizers, fancy napkins, paper straws, and elaborate cheese boards have their place, but sometimes I like to have people over, crack out a bottle of wine, and sit down to a meal that's not too fussy. Something comforting and delicious and easy to prepare. The type of meal that I can still stand around and have a conversation while making. There's nothing worse than having people over for a gathering, and you spend the whole night in the kitchen cooking and stressing. Where's the fun in that?

One of my favorite meals to prepare when I have guests over is pasta. It's something that I cook often, so it feels as though I have the timing down, the organization is there, and everything always seems to flow smoothly. Pasta can be substantial and filling, but also a great dish to incorporate a lot of in-season vegetables.

The recipe that I am excited to share today is a creamy Roth Chipotle Havarti pasta with fried cauliflower, mushrooms, red pepper, and tomatoes. The kind folks at Roth Cheese sent me over some of their cheeses to try and I was particularly fond of their Chipotle Havarti. It is creamy and flavorful, with a hint of heat, but not too overwhelming. It worked perfectly as a sauce, combined with a little cream, some pasta water, and salt and pepper. I had some friends over last week, and after I made this dish, we all stood around the kitchen island drinking wine and eating bowls of pasta in such a non-fussy manner, it was absolutely perfect.

*This post was sponsored by Roth Cheese. As always, thank you so much for supporting the brands that keep the Flourishing Foodie delicious! Of course, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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serves 4

prep time: 20 minutes

cooking time: 30 minutes

3 tbsp canola oil

3 cups chopped cauliflower

3 cups sliced crimini mushrooms

1/2 red pepper, chopped

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

2 1/2 cups dry penne pasta

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup pasta water

6 oz

Roth Chipotle Havarti

, grated

salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of water to boil.

In a large frying pan, heat the oil over medium. Add the cauliflower, and fry for 10 minutes tossing frequently. Once the cauliflower has begun to brown, add the mushrooms and red pepper and continue to fry until the mushrooms are soft. Add the tomatoes, and fry lightly for a minute or two.

Add the dry pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water.

Reduce the frying pan heat to low. Add the cream and 1/2 cup pasta water from boiling pasta pot. Stir to combine. Stir in the cheese. Simmer on low for a minute or two, just enough to heat the sauce. Season with salt and pepper.

Drain the pasta and add it to the frying pan with the sauce and vegetables. Toss. Serve warm.

Ready to try it out for yourself? Here’s a

coupon good for $2.00 any Roth Cheese

, redeemable anywhere Roth Cheese is sold!