Another week, another bunch of collard greens from the CSA. I hesitated to post this recipe (because, after all, who really needs directions on how to cook pasta?) but this quick and easy dish has become a weeknight staple for us, and we often use up whatever leftover proteins, greens, or pasta we have on hand. This particular shape, capunti, is one of my favorites. Its chewiness makes a simple pasta dish feel substantial, but it's also slightly vessel-ed to scoop up whatever sauce you may be using. The garlic-y breadcrumbs add a really nice texture to this dish as well - don't skip this step! Sausage is completely optional. I cooked some crumbled hot Italian sausage and added it in, but this dish has enough flavor to stand on its own. By the way, the leftovers hold up well, for those who are cooking for one.
Capunti with Greens and Garlic Breadcrumbs (serves 2)
- 1/2 - 3/4 lb capunti pasta (capanelle, bow ties, gemelli, or cavatelli would do nicely too)
- 4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 1/3 pound collard greens, stalks removed, roughly chopped
- 1 small shallot, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup breadcrumbs (fresh is preferred, although panko works too. Do not use Italian seasoned breadcrumbs)
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- olive oil
- salt & pepper
- 1/2 cup reserved pasta water
- (optional) 2 links hot or sweet Italian sausage, red pepper flakes
You'll need two pots: one to boil the pasta and one wide skillet for everything else. Put the pasta onto boil. Cook it slightly shorter than you would normally, keeping in mind that we are going to be combining it in a hot skillet, where it will continue to absorb water. Whenever it's ready, strain it and set it aside, taking care to save the pasta water.
First prepare the breadcrumbs. Over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons olive oil. When the oil gets hot, add half of the garlic (2 cloves worth), breadcrumbs, and a little sprinkle of salt. Give it a stir to combine the garlic and breadcrumbs, and then let it sit to slowly brown. Break up any crumbles that form around the garlic with a spoon and toss occassionally to cook everything evenly. Once the breadcrumbs look nice and golden, remove it from the pan and set aside.
Next, the collard greens. Heat the skillet up on medium-high and add 2 more tbsp of olive oil. Once that is hot, add the shallot, letting it brown and caramelize in the pan. Wait 2 minutes or so before adding the garlic and chopped collard greens. I used quite a bit of greens but it wilts quickly, so keep tossing them until they cook down a bit. At this point, your pasta should be done or almost done. Using a ladle, scoop out some pasta water to "braise" the greens with, scraping up the brown bits at the bottom of the pan. The water will help the collards cook. Add some salt and pepper. Once the collards are wilted and tender, add the strained pasta and stir to combine. If you are adding sausage or any meat, add that too. Next, add the parmesan cheese and stir. If the mixture seems dry at all, add more pasta water. Taste and season one more time, if needed. Serve warm, with breadcrumbs sprinkled on top. A squeeze of lemon would work well, too.