When cooked down, Swiss chard becomes incredibly tender, but adds surprising texture to this pasta dish. The chard, the pasta, the aromatic garlic: all of these ingredients truly come together as one…perfecto (read more by Mario about this dish here).
Serves 6 people
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small white onion, halved and sliced 1⁄4 inch thick
3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 pound Swiss chard, trimmed and sliced 1⁄4 inch thick
Maldon or other flaky sea salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
Coarsely ground black pepper
1 pound pennette pasta
3⁄4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus extra for serving
½ cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs, fried in olive oil until golden brown
For the chard ragú
Combine the oil, onion, garlic, and chard in a large pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion and chard are beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Season well with Maldon salt, add ¼ cup water, cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chard is very tender, about 20 minutes.
Add the butter, stirring until it melts, then season with pepper and remove from the heat.
The ragu can be prepared up to 2 days ahead. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate; reheat in a large pot over medium-low heat before adding the pasta.
For the pasta
Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot and add 3 tablespoons kosher salt. Drop in the pasta and cook until just al dente.
Drain the pasta, reserving about ½ cup of the pasta water. Add the pasta and ¼ cup of the reserved pasta water to the chard ragú and stir and toss over medium heat until the pasta is well coated (add a splash or two more of the reserved pasta water if necessary to loosen the sauce). Stir in the cheese.
Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl and scatter the breadcrumbs over the top.
Serve with additional grated Parmigiano on the side.
Recipe courtesy of Molto Gusto (ecco 2010)