If you also add a little of the pasta cooking liquid to the sauce, it will work to glue together the pasta and sauce in a most satisfyingly connubial fashion.
And let’s not forget our Swiss chard. A spring vegetable, this tangy Mediterranean member of the beet family comes in several colors, from bottle green to rainbow. And it’s edible from tip to toe, too, stems included. Just slice the stems and put them in the pan before the greens, because they take a little longer to soften.
By the way, if you’re wondering how the heck you’re going to persuade a full pound of greens to cook down within the confines of a single skillet, don’t worry; the water that clings to the greens after you wash them will help them to wilt. Just add them a handful at a time. Besides chard, this dish also would provide a happy home for spinach, beet greens, or any other greens.
To finish, I pepped up the greens with a little chicken sausage, but just a little and just for flavor. Plenty of cultures use animal protein this way, rather than relying on a substantial slab of it to occupy the center of the plate. There’s a lesson there for us: it’s better for our health and for the environment.
This is pretty much a one-dish meal. Serve it with a nice little tossed salad on the side and a glass of vino, and savor your contentment.
Whole-Wheat Penne with Spring Greens and Sausage
Hands on: 15 minutes Total time: 45 minutes Serves: 4
If you have trouble finding Swiss chard, you can substitute spinach. Discard any tough spinach stems and use the leaves as directed.
8 ounces whole-wheat penne
1 pound Swiss chard
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces chicken sausages, halved lengthwise, then sliced 1/2-inch-thick crosswise
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
15-ounce can (about 1 3/4 cups) chopped tomatoes, preferably fire roasted
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1 1/2 ounces grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for a few minutes less than the recommended time on the box.
Meanwhile, cut off and reserve the Swiss chard stems. Chop the Swiss chard leaves coarsely. Cut the stems into 1/2-inch lengths.
In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the sausages and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, or until lightly browned. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sausages to a bowl.
Return the skillet to medium heat and add the onion. Cook until golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Add the Swiss chard stems to the skillet, cover and cook for 3 minutes. Remove the lid and add half the Swiss chard greens. Stir and cook, stirring occasionally, until the greens are slightly wilted. Add the remaining greens, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until completely wilted. Add the tomatoes, a hefty pinch of salt and the red pepper flakes, if using.
When the pasta is almost done but not quite al dente, drain it, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Add the pasta and 3/4 cup of the cooking liquid to the skillet and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, adding more cooking liquid if necessary, until the pasta is al dente and most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the sausages, then season with salt. Divide the mixture among 4 shallow bowls and top each portion with some of the cheese.
Per serving: 380 calories (29 percent from fat), 12 grams fat (3 grams saturated, 0 grams trans fat), 20 milligrams cholesterol, 55 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams fiber, 19 grams protein, 950 milligrams sodium.