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Pasta with beans and Swiss chard is the Cook’s Illustrated version of pasta with beans and greens, which is apparently a pretty ubiquitous Italian dish, though I’d never heard of it until recently. Apparently, it’s usually a sausage-laden affair, but I’m not really a fan of Italian sausage. Their version, though, with pancetta and Swiss chard, sounded pretty intriguing, so I decided that I’d have to try it out.
We’ve had quite a bit of cold weather and some snow, which is pretty rare for our area. You guys, I am not built for the cold. Now, if you are from the North, don’t go yapping at me about how it’s not really all that cold here. I am completely aware of that. I have lived in Tennessee for all of my thirty-six years, though, and temperatures in the twenties and below are enough to send me over the edge. Ever winter I complain incessantly about the cold, and every winter I pledge to never, ever complain when the summer heat causes the mercury to surge toward 100 degrees. And I never, ever do. I. Love. Summer.
Still, cold weather has its advantages. Few and far between they are, but such is life and we do need seasons . A few summers ago we had an extremely mild winter and our indoor cat somehow got fleas because apparently fleas kind of got out of control (but good grief, how did they get in my house????). And we spent two weeks living in hell. So I’ll deal with the winter. But besides controlling the flea population, another advantage that I have to admit to is that winter food wins.
I mean, there are the obvious holiday foods. Christmas food (prime rib! all the snacks ever! an excuse to bake with abandon!) is reason enough to love winter…but then there’s soup, which admittedly I eat year round, but in the winter you need soup. Braises with rich meats that are perfect served over creamy mashed potatoes and pasta dishes thick with tomato sauce and cheese just bring a certain level of comfort on those days that you just don’t want to step outside. And then there are one-pot meals, which is what I decided that this dish needed to be.
The original recipe from Cook’s Illustrated required the pasta to be cooked separately from the other components. I started thinking about this one-pot macaroni and cheese, where the pasta is boiled in the milk, which thickens up perfectly from the starch released into the liquid. Hmmmm…could I do this with the dish. Why yes, yes I could. The starch of the beans (especially since you don’t drain the beans) combined with the starch of the pasta thickens the liquid to make a rich sauce, to coat the hearty crunch of the chard stems and the tender bite of the chard leaves, the savory pancetta….it all works so perfectly together. And you only have a knife, a cutting board, a pot, and a spoon to wash. So you should make this pasta with beans and Swiss chard…and make it snappy. Spring is just around the corner.
One-pot Pasta with Beans and Swiss Chard (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated December 2014)
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
- 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
- 3 ounces pancetta, diced
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 10 ounces Swiss chard-stems finely diced, leaves coarsely chopped
- 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
- 1 garlic clove, minced to a paste
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, with their liquid
- 1 15-ounce can pinto beans, with their liquid
- 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 8 ounces (2 1/2 cups) fusilli or rotini
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- Parmesan cheese, for serving
- Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until smoking. Add the pancetta and cook until it begins to brown. Add the onion the chard stems and cook until they begin to soften. Add one teaspoon of the rosemary, the garlic, and the red pepper flakes and cook for about 30 seconds.
- Add the beans with their liquid and the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Stir in the pasta and cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Stir in the chard leaves and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until the pasta is al dente and the chard leaves are tender.
- Remove the pot from the heat. Add the remaining rosemary and the vinegar. Season to taste with salt. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese for topping.
Click here to print the recipe for One-Pot Pasta with Beans and Swiss Chard!