Monday, October 06, 2008

Ricotta-chard pasta

Our new student intern at work, Veda, comes with many qualifications, but in my eyes the real selling point for her was that she runs an organic garden in her spare time. She very graciously brought me some of her chard surplus, probably because I was not very subtle once I found out about it. I decided to make pasta of some kind with the chard, and this really reminds me of something my mom often makes--the combination of greens with raisins and pinenuts is kind of Sicilian. I think my mom loves it with cauliflower though, which is a variation I don't make that often. This here is sort of like a glorified mac and cheese, but with greens and a bit more sophisticated.

Get a big bunch of lovely fresh chard by abusing your power with a student intern, or via some other means. Wash and dry it well, then slice the stems off the leaves and mince them. Stack, then roll the leaves and cut them into a chiffonade, then again crosswise through the chiffonade slices in order to make short, manageble pieces of chard leaves, then set aside. Heat up 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan, then add in 1/2 a minced onion and sauté until soft--about 5-7 minutes. Add 1 small clove minced garlic and sauté just for a minute or so more to soften it. Now add in your chard leaves and stems. It will seem like it takes up a lot of room, but by quickly stirring the leaves in the olive oil over medium heat, you will see that a big pile of chard soon wilts down in mass quite a bit. You will find yourself wishing you had a lot more chard because it decreases in amount so much once it is cooked. Well, there's no helping that now, is there? You should have bullied your intern more when you had the chance.After you have sautéed your chard into wilty submission (about 3 minutes or so), add in a handful of golden raisins. Continue to sauté for another 2 minutes, then remove from heat and set aside.Get yourself about a cup and a half of ricotta cheese (perhaps whatever is leftover from a lasagna-making adventure earlier in the week?) and mix it well with salt and pepper. Add in your chard mixture along with a handful of pinenuts and stir well until it's all fully integrated into the ricotta.Meanwhile, bring a salted pot of water to boil and cook up a package of penne pasta in it until just shy of al dente. You can use whatever kind of pasta you like, actually, I'm not trying to micromanage. Drain the not-quite-al dente pasta and toss it with the ricotta-chard mixture in a baking dish.Grate a little parmesan cheese over the top and add some breadcrumbs if you like as well.Bake it in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes or so--long enought to get it all cheesy-crispy and browned.There you go. Enjoy with some green veggies and delicious wine.

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