Thursday, September 06, 2012
SWISS CHARD AND LEMON RICOTTA PASTA
Can you believe I have more than 450 recipes here (whoa), and not a single one uses Swiss chard? Honestly, I have nothing against the stuff, but ever since I discovered kale it’s been my go-to leafy green, leaving little room for experimentation with others. Then I saw this recipe on Food52 and it spoke to me. Specifically, it said, “Give chard a chance, you moron.” (Chard can be kind of a jerk. Fortunately, it’s pretty and it tastes good.) Also: “Look, I have bacon and lemon and cheese.” Sold!
Somehow I wasn’t really expecting this to taste like more than the sum of its parts, but boy was I wrong: This was a fantastically delicious and well balanced pasta dish. The only change I made was to double the recipe and add the lemon juice as well as the zest, both excellent decisions. In retrospect, I might have increased the cheese quantities just slightly (noted below), and I definitely wanted even more chard. Like all leafy greens, it seems like you’re buying a ton, but it cooks down so dramatically. I bought two large rainbow bunches, dutifully measured out six generous cups, and…that’s all I used. I easily could have added another two cups with the amount I had left over, and looking at the tiny flecks of green in the finished pasta, I wished I had. More greens are never a bad thing.
My vegetable bible, Jack Bishop’s Vegetables Every Day, says that the chard stems cook at a different rate than the leaves, so I didn’t include them even though the original recipe said “including the stems.” Do what you want! I included the thinner rib near the leaf, just not the really thick, celery-like lower stem. If you don’t use them for this, you can always cook them up separately another time. (Which I intend to do next time I make this. Which, by the way, will be really soon. As usual when I write glowingly about a recipe, I am now craving it.)
6–8 cups raw Swiss chard (2 large bunches), sliced (leaves and thinner ribs, but not the thickest part of the stems)
1 pound spaghetti
4 strips bacon, cut into ¼-inch slices
1 large shallot, minced
⅔–1 cup ricotta cheese
¼–½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra to taste
Zest and juice from 1 large lemon
½ teaspoon salt, plus extra to taste
¼ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Blanch the Swiss chard for 5 minutes. Scoop out the chard with a slotted spoon, transfer to a colander, and drain well, squeezing out as much of the water as possible. Chop again and set aside.
2. Keep the pot of water boiling, and add the spaghetti noodles. Cook until al dente. Remove 1 cup of cooking liquid, then drain the noodles.
3. Meanwhile, fry bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until just crispy. Add the shallot and sauté until soft. Add the Swiss chard and toss well to break up the chard clumps.
4. Combine the ricotta and Parmesan cheeses in a small bowl, and add the lemon zest and juice, ½ teaspoon salt, and red pepper flakes. Add to the Swiss chard mixture in the skillet and mix well.
5. Add cooked spaghetti to the skillet and mix well. Gradually add pasta water as needed to thin the sauce to desired consistency. Serve topped with additional grated Parmesan.
Time: 1 hour
Leftover potential: Good.