Orecchiete with White Beans and Chard

a meal for many seasons
a meal for many seasons

This, like most of my recent recipes, is the child of necessity. Matt and I are too New England to waste anything, so we’ve been eating and freezing chard for what seems like months. Colby was sick of chard pizza (the boy hates chard) and I decided to create a deconstructed mac n’ cheese of sorts to try and ameliorate his new disdain for the dinner table.

This recipe isn’t a stunner, as in it won’t blow your mind with its many tastes and textures. It impresses you subtly, in its ease and quiet grace. The flavors don’t overwhelm, but they work. This simple meal is easy to make ‘grown up’ with different cheese choices, but it is also easy for a picky eater to pick around any undesired elements. Enjoy!

You’ll need:

1/2 lb Pastene orecchiette (don’t go healthy or cheap here – it’s healthy enough with the greens and beans, and it’s super inexpensive already – unless you must)

a large pot of heavily salted water

1 onion

a large bunch of cleaned and chopped chard

2-5 slices of cheese (we used smoked gouda), chopped or grated

one can of white beans (we used garbanzos)

1 tbsp of cider vinegar or wine

a few glugs of olive oil

garlic or garlic powder

salt & pepper

Do this:

Cook pasta according to directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of cooking water. Drain and leave in the colander. Do not rinse – you want the pasta sticky.

While pasta is cooking, slice the onion. Once pasta is in the strainer, throw onions and olive oil into the same pot you used for the pasta. Let the onions hang out on low-medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Some of us like our onions caramelized in everything (author points to herself), but others prefer them just barely translucent. Do whatever you want here. This whole recipe is an experiment in versatility.

Once onions are cooked to preference, throw in the (drained and rinsed) can of beans and garlic or garlic powder. Salt and pepper liberally. De-glaze pan with vinegar. Add chard. Always add more than you think you will need because the chard, like any other green, will shrink until each leaf is a microscopic version of its whole garden self.

Once chard is cooked (I like mine just barely cooked, Matt likes his cooked to death – I am for the middle ground) add pasta and toss. The orecchiete is perfect because the beans nestle into the little ear-like pastas.

*Recipe Hack* If you have reluctant eaters you may want to swirl a pat or two of butter around the pan. It adds richness and flavor and isn’t nearly as bad as it could be. I mean really, you could be covering this with cheese sauce . . .

Add cheese and toss again. Serve in pasta bowls with large spoons.

The fork clearly is not working here - large spoon necessary.
The fork clearly is not working here – large spoon necessary.

I imagine different versions of this meal taking shape throughout the year. Kind of like this:

Summer – serve with tall glasses of ice water, iced tea, (or an icy cold chardonnay) and fresh fruit or sorbet for dessert. It’s too damn hot to overeat in July.

Fall – serve with ice water, red wine or a seasonal beer and crusty bread; blueberry or apple-based baked dessert

Winter – serve with water, hot tea, red wine or seasonal beer; crusty bread; include other winter vegetables in the mix OR incorporate a broth base and turn it into a soup; baked dessert

Spring – water (or tea), any wine, any beer; crusty bread; incorporate spring veg (baby spinach/chard, chives, garlic scapes, whatever comes first) or leftover root vegetables; whatever dessert.


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