“Just let me know if you want any chard – I’m substituting other items in the CSA basket as no one seemed to really want it.” I’m standing at the Douglas Loop Farmer’s Market staring at Pavel in utter disbelief. What does he mean no one wanted the chard? My arms are already feeling the strain of the two bags I am holding, each stuffed with a plethora of vegetables signaling the start of the fall season. I am grateful for each and every item Pavel has given me but it was the chard – the thick, leafy, toothsome chard – that I was most looking forward to bringing home. Now, I will be the first to admit that I have a great deal to learn about the wide world of greens. They have never been my specialty or, to be honest, near the top of my favorite foods list. I’ve always liked spinach and there is absolutely nothing better than a crisp, peppery leaf of arugula, but it’s chard that, for me at least, takes it to another level. With heartier leaves than spinach and a slightly bitter bite, chard opens itself up to a variety of preparations. It will likely come as no surprise to you that I enjoy it most when it is paired with pasta. The leaves of chard are wilted down until soft and rich. They fold around the strands of spaghetti, making their way into every bite, the overall taste experience enhanced by the sweetness of the red onions and the saltiness of the bacon that rounds out this recipe. While I left the Farmer’s Market discouraged by this news of chard’s rejection, I was soon comforted by this warm bowl of pasta and greens. Chard’s star will not dim… it only takes one bite to see how bright it can really shine. This recipe for spaghetti with chard and bacon is just my way of helping my fellow foodies see the light.
As always, prepping your ingredients prior to cooking is going to make the entire experience that much more enjoyable. And this particular dish comes together very quickly, so you want to have the few items required chopped/sliced/diced and at hand for easy application when needed. That said, place a large pot of water on the stove to boil and assemble the following: one half red onion, thinly sliced, one tbs minced garlic, several stalks chard, approximately 13 (rainbow and swiss varietals are great), stems removed and chopped, and three slices of thick-cut bacon, one-inch dice.
Saute the bacon in one tsp olive oil until crisp, approximately five minutes. Remove from the pan to a paper towel and set aside.
Add the onion to the pan and saute in the fat rendered from the bacon over medium heat for five minutes, adding one half tsp kosher salt and one eighth tsp freshly ground black pepper. While the onions are cooking, add a palm-full of salt to the pot of boiling water along with one half pound of spaghetti. Cook as directed on the package – eight to nine minutes – until al dente. Make sure to reserve one third cup of the pasta water before draining the pasta.
While the pasta is cooking and once the onions have begun to soften, add the garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes to the pan. Saute for thirty seconds until fragrant. Add the chard to the pan along with one tsp red wine vinegar, an additional one half tsp of kosher salt and an additional one eighth tsp freshly ground black pepper. Toss to combine and allow the chard to begin to wilt down. After two minutes, add the reserved pasta water and reduce for an additional three minutes. Finish with one tbs olive oil and stir to blend. Turn the heat to medium-low and add the cooked spaghetti to the pan, tossing to combine. Serve immediately with freshly grated parmesan cheese to garnish.
- one half pound spaghetti, one third cup pasta water reserved
- one half red onion, thinly sliced
- one tbs minced garlic
- several stalks chard, approximately 13 (rainbow and swiss varietals are great), stems removed and chopped
- three slices of thick-cut bacon, one-inch dice
- pinch red pepper flakes
- one tsp red wine vinegar
- one tbs olive oil
- one tsp kosher salt, divided
- one quarter freshly ground black pepper, divided
- freshly shredded parmesan cheese to garnish