After eighteen years of raising hungry boys in my kitchen, I seldom have leftovers when pasta water and cold butter are paired as the base of a sauce. In an act of kitchen artistry, every plate is licked clean and I barely have to put any elbow grease into the dirty dish aftermath. My pennette with Swiss chard ragu serves as no exception to that rule. This is one of my favorite simple Italian meals with a vegetarian focus and hearty bite for everyone in the family.
Deriving from penne pasta, pennette from the Campania region takes a smaller shape with the same short, slanted angles. It remains a split decision in Italy whether small penne should have smooth versus ridged edges, but one thing that can be agreed upon by all Italians is that dried pasta should be stored in a cool, dry place. If pennette is not available to you, substitute with perciatelli or short ziti pasta in most recipes. Pennette is best paired with a vegetable or legume, which is why I call on my favorite leafy green in season, Swiss chard.
When shopping at the farmer’s market for this recipe, I keep in mind that one pound of Swiss chard is equivalent to roughly twenty large leaves or two bunches. When cooked down, Swiss chard becomes incredibly tender, but adds surprising texture to this pasta dish. The extra sprinkling of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese will also add depth, but if you have dairy allergies in the family, substitute with a dash of Italian seasoning before serving. The chard, the pasta, the aromatic garlic: all of these ingredients truly come together as one. Perfecto.