Pasta is the perfect canvas for any number of vegetable sautes. Unless I am making a specific dish, I rarely use a recipe when cooking pasta. I see what I have in the fridge, grab the olive oil and some garlic and get to work sauteing. This kind of meal can be prepared in no time, with very little stress. Don’t be afraid to experiment with ingredients. After all, how bad can pasta, olive oil, garlic and vegetables be?
- 1/2 lb orecchiette
- 1 bunch of red chard, rinsed, roughly chopped
- 3-4 cloves, peeled and diced
- 2 leeks, thinly sliced and soaked to remove any dirt
- 2 thin slices of bacon or pancetta (optional)
- Olive oil
- Parmesan cheese
- Fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. While you are waiting for the water to boil, prep all the ingredients. Remove the leafy part of the red chard from the stem. Once you have removed all the leaves, place them in a large bowl and fill it with cold water. Let the leaves sit for a few minutes to remove any dirt or residue from the leaves. While the leaves are soaking, peel and dice the garlic. Set aside. Remove the dark green top of the leeks. Discard. Thinly slice the lighter, bottom part of the leek and place in a small bowl filled with water. Let leeks soak for a couple of minutes to remove any dirt. If you choose to use bacon or pancetta, cut it into cubes and set aside.
Once the pasta water is boiling, generously salt and add the orecchiette. Stir and cook until al dente.
While the pasta is cooking, heat a large pan over medium heat. Drop the cubed bacon into the pan. Cook until fat has been released and bacon has become golden and crisp. Remove bacon, leaving fat behind in the pan. Add a little olive oil and throw in the garlic. Stir to coat and cook on medium for a minute or two. Do not let the garlic turn brown. Add the leeks and stir to coat. Cook for several minutes until the leeks start to break down and soften. Taste. Season with salt and pepper. Remember that bacon and pancetta are salty, so make sure to taste as you go to avoid over salting the dish. Add the red chard, mix and cook until chard softens. Add bacon/pancetta back to dish at this point, if you feel like it. Taste. Correct seasoning.
Once the pasta is al dente, scoop it out of the water and add it to the vegetable mixture. Incorporate into the pasta and add a little pasta water if necessary.
Scoop pasta into a serving bowl and top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, a little cracked pepper and the chopped parsley.