I had nothing to do with this meal.
Handsome saw Lidia Bastianich make this on the Create TV channel one morning getting ready for work, and looked the recipe up online, finding it only on a message board. He bought the groceries, he did all the prep work, and he did all the cooking. This is his baby.
I took photos with my new camera. I got in the way, dragged a chair into our tiny apartment kitchen to get a better angle. I irritated him by asking him to turn this way and that. I looked askance at the almonds, as I am not a nut person. I looked warily at the Swiss chard, a leaf I’d never tasted before. I did the dishes when we were finished eating. But I had little to do with the preparation, so I can hardly take credit.
Except that this is my blog. Handsome doesn’t have a blog, so he doesn’t get the credit! I get all the credit. Well, me and Mrs. Bastianich, who shares space on the altar with The Pioneer Woman.
Lidia has a cooking show on public television called Lidia’s Italy that Handsome and I watch every time it’s on and we catch it. She’s a woman who is supremely intimidating; I’m pretty sure she would kick me out of the kitchen for my incompetence. But she does accessible, simple recipes that are fairly easily duplicated in the well-stocked kitchen, so my little family turns to her frequently for dinner inspiration. Her cuisine is Italian, obviously, but there is some German overlap as well, which Handsome, the deutsche-phile, appreciates.
If I were to make this recipe again (or watch Handsome make it, heh), I would use less oil. I’m not used to pestos, so I’m not sure how oily a pasta prepared with pesto is supposed to be, but as written, this recipe was a little oily for my taste. Lidia finishes every pasta she has ever made with a few tablespoons of oil, but I normally omit this final indulgence, with no ill effects to the dish. (Lidia’s food is quite frequently an indulgence and will not be kind to your waistline in the quantities she prepares. Her recipes are so simple and well-constructed, however, that Handsome and I make alterations to portion size, and get ourselves to the workout room as often as possible. It’s a life choice.)
1/2 pound dry pasta, such as linguine
1 lb. Swiss chard
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
2-3 tbsp. loosely packed fresh mint leaves
4 cloves garlic, 2 peeled and crushed, 2 peeled and sliced
5 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/2 t. red pepper flakes, or to taste
Grated parmesan cheese, to taste (1/2 cup)
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. (“Salted” = throw a few pinches of salt in with the water.)
Rinse and drain chard, and cut off stems and the central ribs with a paring knife. (Not the big knife Handsome has. That was overkill.) Slice chard into 1″ strips. Add chard to boiling water, return water to boil, and let boil 10 minutes. Strain chard, but save this water for cooking pasta.
When chard has cooled, squeeze out extra water from the chard and set chard aside.
Return chard-water to boil and add pasta, cooking according to package directions.
Put basil, mint, 2 cloves crushed garlic, 3 tbsp. olive oil, and salt in food processor; process about 10 seconds, until chunky. Add almonds and process until smooth.
Add remaining olive oil to skillet on medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add sliced garlic and cook 1-2 minutes. Add chard red pepper flakes, and pinch salt, and stir. Ladle in 1/4 cup pasta water and cook until reduced by half.
Lower heat to simmer and add pasta, tossing to mix chard with pasta. Add pesto and toss to coat. Add parmesan cheese to taste, tossing to coat. Finish with a few tablespoons olive oil, if desired. Turn out onto a serving dish and serve immediately, passing parmesan for diners (like me!) who add more.