Saturday, November 3, 2012

Fusili with Chard, Tomatoes & Bacon

Pasta with chard, tomatoes and bacon
Fusili is a corkscrew pasta that's similar to rotini. If you can't find fusili, feel free to use rotini, or rigatoni, penne or other tubular or twisted pasta that will "hold" the chunky sauce for this dish. Although I prefer to use whole-wheat pasta for its nutritional value, you can use regular or even gluten-free pasta.

For an indulgently rich dish, fry the onion & garlic in a little of the grease produced from frying the bacon; otherwise, use olive oil.

Finally, I chose to make this recipe with red chard but you could substitute other varieties of chard, or even an equivalent amount of spinach for milder flavor. If you use baby spinach, be aware that it will cook faster than chard, which is tougher.

Don't get hung up on precisely matching the ingredient amounts, and feel free to adjust them and the seasonings to suit your taste.

Types of Pasta
1 Tbs olive oil or bacon fat
1 cup chopped onion
1 tsp minced garlic
1 bunch red chard (approx. 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lb before trimming)
1 tsp sea salt
Cracked black pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes, undrained
1/3 cup red wine
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
4 to 6 strips crisp-cooked bacon, coarsely crumbled
1 lb package of fusili or similar pasta
Optional: Grated or shredded Parmigiano cheese for topping

Heat the oil or fat in a large, deep saucepan over medium-high heat, then fry the onion & garlic, stirring occasionally, until softened and just starting to turn a light golden color.

While the onion & garlic are frying, thoroughly rinse the chard, shake off excess water, and strip or cut the leaves off the stems (I grasp the stem with one hand and wrap my other hand around the bottom of the leaf, then pull the leaf up so that it strips off the stem). Discard the stems and coarsely chop or tear the leaves (I tear them by hand) into rough pieces.

When the onion & garlic are done, stir the chard into the pan, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring regularly, until leaves have wilted and are tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. This can take 10 minutes or longer, depending on how tough the leaves are. You can speed up the process by partially covering the pan, leaving a slight vent to allow steam to escape.

When the chard is tender, stir in the tomatoes, wine, oregano and crumbled bacon, and bring to a simmer. Cover (leaving a slight vent) and reduce heat to medium-low, allowing the mixture to simmer and the flavors to meld while you prepare the pasta.

Boil the pasta according to package directions, drain well, and transfer to plates or a large bowl if serving family-style. Remove the chard-tomato mixture from heat and taste for balance, adding more salt, pepper or oregano if desired.  Spoon the chard-tomato mixture over the pasta, and top with grated or shredded parmesan if desired. Makes 6 servings, and you can refrigerate and reheat leftovers.

Zestfully yours,

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