This recipe from Cook, Eat, Repeat by Nigella Lawson has become my favorite pasta dish. It’s especially good as a warm up the following day, and although one can substitute broccoli for the chard, the chard makes it so much more special. First time I ever cooked with chard.
Lawson gives an alternate vegan version using black olives instead of anchovies, but I don’t think it’s anywhere nearly as good; it’s the anchovies that give this dish all the flavor. Even if you don’t think you like anchovies, try this; you might be pleasantly surprised.
12 ounces rainbow (or other) chard (broccoli is a reasonable substitute)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to pour over at the end
8 anchovy fillets (from a jar or can)
3 fat cloves of garlic
1⁄4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1⁄2 cup hot water
8 ounces spaghetti
2-3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano, plus more to serve
- Coordinate the making of your spaghetti, according to however you cook it, to coincide with chard mixture. Slat it lightly.
- Strip the leaves from the stalks of chard. Roll them up and slice finely, then leave to one side. Cut the stalks into 1⁄2-3⁄4-inch pieces, depending on their girth.
- Into a large saucepan, add the olive oil and the anchovies, and warm slowly, stirring and pressing down on the anchovies until they seem to melt into the oil.
- Take off the heat, peel and mince or grate in the garlic, add the red pepper flakes, then put back on the heat, this time turned up to medium, and stir briefly before adding the chopped chard stalks. Turn the stalks around in the pepper-flecked anchovy oil for a minute or so to soak up the flavor.
- Pour in the hot water, stir again, and bring to a bubble. Put the lid on the pan and cook at a fast simmer until the stalks are tender; this will take 5-7 minutes. If you’re cooking with larger stemmed, more robust chard, then you may need to go for 10 minutes.
- Add the shredded chard leaves to the stalks in their pan, give a good stir, replace the lid, and leave them to wilt in the hot pan. This could take anything from 2-4 minutes. Once they’re ready, turn the heat off under the pan, keeping the lid on, while you wait for the pasta.
- Use a pasta fork or tongs to add the cooked spaghetti straight to the waiting pan of chard. It doesn’t matter if the pasta is dripping with water, as that starchy liquid will help thicken your sauce. Turn the spaghetti well in the chard and anchovy mixture; you may need to add up to 4 tablespoons of cooking water as you toss everything together; go slowly, and stop when the chard seems to turn into a sauce that cleaves to the strands of spaghetti.
- Grate over about 2 tablespoons’ worth of Parmesan or Pecorino Romano and toss again, then give a generous pour of olive oil, and do likewise. Taste to see if you want more cheese or oil, and proceed accordingly, then turn into a warmed bowl or bowls, and bring the cheese, a grater and the bottle of olive oil to the table with you.
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