Pasta is the ultimate comfort food. It is simple and inexpensive to make and very versatile. Most comfort foods are warm and oozing with creamy sauce and cheeses (think lasagne or mac and cheese), but as I am married to a non-creamy food guy, I usually opt for sauces that are broth based with an optional cheese topping. Cooking with broth adds flavor without all the extra calories. In this dish I braised the greens in a reduced vegetable broth with onions and garlic and a touch of crushed red pepper flakes. I added baby lima beans for a protein boost, and to help fill up our tummies, although any bean or legume would work fine. There is nothing worse than finding yourself back at the refrigerator rooting around for something to eat 30 minutes after dinner. Braising greens, or cooking them in a bit of liquid just until they wilt, is a great way to use excess salad or garden greens, even beet or turnip tops that you might normally throw away. Using a combination of greens like spinach, chard, kale, collards, mustard, bok choy or raddichio makes for a more interesting flavor and braising them brings out the intense greens and reds, unless you cook them too long, then they turn to mush. Don’t worry if it seems like too many greens, as they reduce quite a bit in volume when they wilt. You can always add a handful more, if desired, since they cook quickly.
So we all know that greens are good for us but it turns out that the bitter in them actually serves a purpose. It sends a chemical reaction through our bodies that helps absorb nutrients, cleanses the body, increases metabolism and curbs our sweet tooth, among other things, so feel free to pile them on. . Read more.
This is a light but satisfying dish that is pleasing to both the eye and the palate. For a heartier dish, use white cannelini beans and top with shaved or shredded parmesan. You can also increase the amount of broth, onions and garlic if you like a lot of sauce. Buon appetito!
Penne with Braised Greens
3/4 lb dry penne pasta (preferably whole grain)
1 T olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 large or 1 small onion, diced
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup baby lima beans, edamame or peas (frozen or fresh)
3 -4 cups mixed greens(chard, spinach, kale)
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp salt
1/4- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- Cook the pasta according to package directions in boiling salted water. Drain and set aside. You can drizzle with a bit of olive oil to keep from sticking if desired.
- In a large skillet or dutch oven, heat the olive oil. Saute the minced garlic, onion and red pepper flakes for two minutes, until the onion is translucent.
- Pour in broth and reduce by half, 5 to 10 minutes
- Add the beans and cook for about five minutes.
- Stir in greens and cook several more minutes until they wilt.
- Add the pasta, lemon zest and salt. Adjust seasonings if necessary.
Options: Top with flaked or grated parmesan or toasted nuts, if desired. For a heartier meal, substitute or add cannelini beans.