This is another dish that I wasn’t too sure about as I formed the recipe in my head…
I’m really not much of a greens person in general. Lettuce, spinach, arugula, kale, chard, collards… You name it, I will probably turn my nose up at it. I do eat them all, but given the choice between greens and something else, I will generally pick something else.
That is where my CSA has really challenged me this year. I have gotten lots of greens (all of the ones I named above, actually) throughout the year. This fall, especially, we have been getting a lot of greens. In last week’s CSA share, it was collard greens. I have seen them made countless times on cooking shows, but the traditional preparation just didn’t sound good to me. I liked the idea of cooking the collard greens with bacon, so I decided to go from there and add some pasta.
Since we were having company for dinner, I was a bit worried about making this dish (and winging it 100%) for the first time. So, I appealed to my Twitter friends, who reassured me that it sounded delicious. I’m glad I took their word for it and got over my fear of collards, because the dish turned out to be a big hit. I think everyone had seconds!
Cheesy Baked Pasta with Collards and Bacon
- 1 pound cut pasta (I used rigatoncini that I picked up at a pasta shop in Boston)
- 2 bunches collard greens (about 2-3 cups chopped)
- 6 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
- 1 small onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 cups milk
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Wondra flour
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 3 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, freshly grated
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Remove the tough stems from the collards, and blanch in boiling salted water for about 2 minutes. Drain, and pat dry with a clean kitchen towel. Chop the collards into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Coat a baking dish with cooking spray and set aside. Prepare the pasta according to the package directions, drain, and set aside.
In a large heavy bottom pot or dutch oven, brown the bits of bacon over medium heat. Once the bacon is cooked, add the onion and garlic, and saute in the rendered bacon fat. Once the onion is soft, add the chopped collards and continue to saute in the bacon fat.
Add the milk and Wondra flour, and stir to incorporate the flour evenly. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, and stir in the ricotta cheese and 2 ounces of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the pasta to the sauce and toss to evenly coat.
Transfer the pasta mixture to the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes until bubbly and golden.