Friday, October 14, 2011

Pasta with Swiss Chard, Bacon and Parmesan

I'm really getting into these quick pasta dishes. We first put this on the menu two weeks ago, and it kept getting bumped back: too many leftovers, going out to eat, no time to cook. Jeff finally made it on a day that I was teaching and getting home late. I walked in the door to a steamy, bacony, earthy smell. When the dish was ready, we absolutely devoured it. I think there should have been leftovers, but all the extra bites we snuck out of the pan took care of those. When I got another bunch of chard from the farm a few days later, I knew there was no other option. And I knew all of you had to hear about it.

This time we only made half the recipe, since it was a small bunch of chard, but I'm giving you the whole thing here. As you can see in the pictures, half the recipe filled my pan pretty well. When we did the whole thing, Jeff needed a separate bowl to toss the pasta and fixings in.

This dish is full of flavors I love: earthy chard (you may remember that my initial reaction to chard was ambivalent, but I've since hopped on the bandwagon), meaty bacon, zingy lemon and salty Parmesan. The original recipe assumes you are using thin, packaged supermarket bacon. We use thick-cut butcher bacon, so we reduced the number of strips. This means that it produces a bit more fat, reducing the need for oil, and doesn't crisp up quite like thinner bacon would. On the other hand, it has a rich, meaty flavor that thin bacon can't match. Combined with the chard, which is almost meaty in its own right, it produces a wonderfully hearty, but not heavy, dish, perfect for a low-meat, vitamin-rich meal!

Pasta with Swiss Chard, Bacon and Parmesan
Adapted from Rachel Ray's 365: No Repeats.

1 lb chunky pasta (I used tricolor rotini, because I had it in the pantry)
2 tsp olive oil (add more if you need to, but if you have nice fatty bacon, this should be plenty)
3 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 small onion, roughly chopped (I used red onion for some extra flavor and vitamins - purple vegetables are good for you!)
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 bunch Swiss chard, cleaned, de-ribbed and roughly chopped
1 c vegetable stock (we used homemade stock)
juice of 1 lemon
1 c grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste (the original recipe did not call for salt, but since we used homemade stock which has no salt in it, we needed to add quite a bit)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve one cup of pasta water.

Preheat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil and bacon and cook about 3 minutes, until the bacon begins to crisp. Add the garlic, onion, and red pepper flakes. Cook about 5 minutes, until the onions are lightly caramelized.

Add chard, toss to coat, and allow to wilt down. Salt and pepper to taste. Turn the heat up to high, add the chicken stock and about one cup of starchy pasta water. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer 6-7 minutes.

Add lemon juice to the chard mixture. Turn off the heat. Drain the pasta well (if you haven't already), then add it and the Parmesan cheese to the greens and toss well (you may need to do this in another bowl). Serve immediately!

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