Italian Peasant Pasta

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This is a fun and simple recipe based on a pasta dish that I had a few weeks ago at Spadaro – an incredible little gem of a restaurant located in a random strip mall in the suburbs near my parents’ house. It’s a favorite of my parents’ for taking friends and family out, and my brother and I both insist on going there whenever we’re home! Its an unassuming store front from the outside, flanked by a fried chicken place and a pizza place, but upon opening the door one finds a little piece of heaven – a small, cramped place with heavenly smells of salty, garlicky marinara sauce, run by a boisterous Italian family that know almost all their customers by name and who used to have a restaurant in Rome before they immigrated here. There is no menu because everything they serve is totally fresh, inspired by whatever ingredients they got that week, and is to-die-for delicious.

The version I made was with chard and lima beans because this is what we had in the kitchen, though the authentic version at Spadaro was made with dandelion greens (hard to find, no?) and fava beans.

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Ingredients:

  • 4 servings pasta – something that catches sauce well
  • 2-3 cups cooked chard or dandelion greens
  • ~1 cup dried lima or fava beans
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 leek
  • 1 cup pecorino romano, shredded
  • ½ cup half-and-half
  • 1-2 tbsp pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Freshly ground pepper

Directions:

  1. Preparing the beans: You want them to be REALLY soft! Soak them for 48 hours, then boil for 1.5-2 hours or until they fall apart with a light squeeze.
  2. Mince the garlic and dice the leek. Sautee both with the pepper flakes in butter for a few minutes.
  3. Either mince the cooked chard as small as you can or put it in a food processor. (The latter would be ideal, but I don’t have one!) If using dandelion greens you don’t really need to do this step – simply cook them until they are wilted. Put the greens into the pan with the garlic and leek.
  4. Mash the beans with your hand – grab a handful and squeeeeeze! Its find if they’re not evenly mashed. Add these to the pan as well.
  5. Add ~1/2 cup of the pecorino romano as well as the olive oil and half and half to the pan. Let everything heat up together, stirring regularly, for 5-10 minutes so that all the flavors combine. Play around with the quantity of half and half and olive oil to achieve your preferred consistency – I made it a thick, though you could certainly make it a little more liquidy.
  6. Season with plenty of freshly ground pepper and garnish with the rest of the pecorino romano.
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