Pasta with Greens and Ricotta. CONTRIBUTED BY HENRI HOLLIS
Photo: Henri Hollis
Photo: Henri Hollis

A comforting pasta dish that can adapt to your pantry

Whether you turn to it for its comfort, its ease, or the fact that it is currently well-stocked in your pantry, quick pasta dinners are likely to be staples in this current time of uncertainty. I know my personal pasta intake has gone way up since I began social distancing, and I’m guessing I’m not alone.

The cheesy, vegetable-filled recipe below makes use of one of my favorite greens — Swiss chard, which I think of as a two-for-one ingredient. You get the sweet crunch of the stems along with the tender, vibrant greens. Simply give the stems a bit of a head start with sliced garlic in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil before adding the greens. They’ll release quite a bit of liquid, but you’ll use that to create a pasta sauce. To complement the subtle sweetness of the chard, I like to mix in whole milk ricotta to the pasta, along with freshly grated, umami-rich Parmesan cheese.

A bonus? The entire process of chopping and cooking the vegetables can be done while pasta water comes to a boil and the pasta itself cooks, which means this dinner can be on the table in even less than 30 minutes.

For those of you currently stuck at home: While this recipe does call for a couple of fresh (or fresh-ish) ingredients that you may or may not currently have on hand, it is highly adaptable. Don’t have Swiss chard? Kale, collards, and fresh (or even frozen, thawed) spinach would all swap in just fine. Can’t get your hands on fresh ricotta cheese? Grate in some mozzarella or stir in a glug or two of cream. Garlic flavor is pretty critical here, but if you don’t have any, you can certainly try adding in garlic powder instead; the flavor will change a bit, but it’ll still be tasty. And do feel free to use any short pasta shape you can get your hands on — rigatoni mixes and mingles well with the greens and cheese, but penne, farfalle, fusilli or orecchiette would all work great.

Pasta with Greens and Ricotta

Pasta with Greens and Ricotta
  • 1 pound dried rigatoni or other short dried pasta
  • Salt
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for the greens
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, leaves cut into ribbons and stems roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • Optional: Red pepper flakes
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the rigatoni and boil until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain.
  • While the water is heating and pasta is cooking, cook the greens: Coat the bottom of a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven with olive oil. Place over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chard stems, garlic slices, and a pinch of red pepper flakes, if desired. Cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the chard leaves and continue to cook until the greens are tender and have released much of their liquid, 1 to 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt, then remove from the heat until the pasta is finished.
  • When the pasta is drained, add it to the pot with the greens. Place over high heat to bring the chard liquid in the pot to a rapid simmer to form a sauce. Cook, stirring constantly, until the pasta is evenly coated in the sauce, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the ricotta and Parmesan. Season to taste with salt, then serve with additional Parmesan at the table. Serves 4 to 6.

Nutritional information

Per serving: based on 4: 609 calories (percent of calories from fat, 24), 26 grams protein, 88 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 16 grams fat (8 grams saturated), 39 milligrams cholesterol, 491 milligrams sodium.

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