Monday, May 23, 2011

Penne with Bacon, Swiss Chard, and Tomatoes

I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate. --Julia Child



My bi-monthly box of organic food has started to transition toward spring vegetables. Asparagus, early tomatoes, lettuce, etc., were prominent in my latest one, but we're also finishing up with winter's chard and kale.  

I had been reading some magazine articles lately that featured Italy and was craving pasta.  I also wanted to try out the suggestion/technique of boiling the pasta until it is just about done, and then transferring it to a large pan/skillet to finish cooking it (with the sauce), adding a bit of the starchy water for the ultimate in pasta preparation.  I've seen this technique referred to a few times lately, in recipes and articles, so thought I'd give it a shot.

I thought a creamy tomato sauce with spinach and bacon would be nice, but I didn't have spinach, so I used some beautiful chard instead.  The dish turned out lovely -- the creamy sauce, the slightly bitter taste of the chard with the salty bacon and the sweetness of the tomatoes made for a really nice dish.

1, 1lb. box penne pasta 
4 strips bacon, cut into small pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 cups chard (stems removed), chopped
4 tomatoes, peeled and diced (or, 1 28 oz. can of whole tomatoes, drained and chopped)
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 TBS goat cheese
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 TBS butter or olive oil (optional)

Bring water to a boil in large stock pot with 2 handfuls of salt.  Add pasta to boiling water and remove when test piece is white only in the very center.  Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water then drain penne and set aside.  

In large skillet/pan over medium heat, brown the bacon, adding the garlic when bacon starts to crisp.  Once garlic is soft and fragrant, add in the chard, tomatoes and cream and reduce heat to a simmer. After the tomatoes start to break up, stir in the goat cheese and salt and pepper, and then add in a bit of the pasta water to thicken the sauce.  Simmer a few more minutes then gently toss in the pasta, coating it with the sauce.  Let this simmer for a minute or two more, adding in more pasta water if needed, adjust your seasonings add the butter/olive oil, and enjoy!


xoxoxo

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