Friday, May 4, 2012

Rigatoni with Sausage and Swiss Chard

I use Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything app a lot, but I rarely use my other iPhone cooking app: Mario Batali Cooks! Compared with Bittman's, Batali's app has far, far fewer recipes and a fussy interface. That aside, Batali is a well-known chef and restauranteur, so I decided to dive in and find a recipe I liked.

His Pasta con la Bietola looked promising. "Bietola" is Italian for Swiss Chard, and this simple dish made with whole-wheat rigatoni, greens and fresh bread crumbs is seasonal and hearty.

I decided to add some meat, so I picked up a couple of Italian chicken sausages from Whole Foods. Their chicken sausage is really quite good, as good as their regular pork Italian sausage. These are not those cardboard-y pre-cooked kind with little red flecks posing as sundried tomatoes. These are real sausages made of raw ingredients and spiced with fennel seed. I use them all the time and they are great.

Figuring out how to make the fresh bread crumbs was a little challenging. The app doesn't include a recipe for it (and I couldn't find one online, despite seeing fresh bread crumbs in other Batali recipes). 

There is a video though, and the process is pretty easy: cut the crusts off half a small loaf of Italian bread (save the other half for something else, such as eating with olive oil), tear bread into pieces, pulse in a food processor until you've achieved an ideal crumb size, then toast the crumbs in a dry frying pan over medium heat until the crumbs turn dark brown (but not burnt). 

After browning the sausage in a little olive oil, I added the vegetables--red onion and the chopped stalks of the Swiss chard, which I figured could use the additional cooking time with the onion rather than with the chard leaves. 

Adding the chard leaves to the pan was a bit of a challenge, despite making this in my largest deep-sided saute pan. In just a short time though, the leaves cooked down to a manageable size. Batali's recipe calls for chopping the leaves into 1/4-inch strips, but I just ripped them by hand and tossed them in.

Rigatoni with Sausage and Swiss Chard
Adapted from Mario Batali's Pasta con la Bietola

1/2 small loaf Italian bread
1 lb. whole wheat rigatoni
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
6-8 oz. mild Italian chicken sausage
1 medium red onion, halved and sliced
1 lb. Swiss chart, stems separated and diced, leaves torn into 1- to 2-inch pieces
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste

1. Cut the crusts off the bread, tear into large chunks and pulse in food processor to reach desired crumb size. Heat a medium frying pan over medium heat and toast bread crumbs until browned (should be a dark brown). Set aside.

2. Bring a large pot of water to boil, add salt and cook pasta two minutes short of package directions for al dente. Reserve 2 cups of pasta water, drain pasta and set aside.

3. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan. Add sausage and brown, breaking up with a wooden spoon. Add onion, garlic and chopped chard stems and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add swiss chard leaves and cook for about 12-15 minutes until the chard is very tender, stirring occasionally. Add pasta to saute pan and a cup of reserved pasta water. Toss thoroughly to combine and add the other cup of water if needed. Season with salt and fresh ground pepper and serve topped with toasted breadcrumbs and shavings of parmigiano-reggiano.

1 comment:

  1. I'm awful late commenting on this and as a result, I'm not sure I remember this dish. It looks amazing, though. I think you should make it again and refresh my memory.