My quest to find great ways to use chard that keeps showing up in my CSA shares has continued all summer. It’s produced a few excellent side dishes (see recipes: Chard with Bacon and Cranberries and Chard with Meyer Lemon) and an awesome minestrone soup with prosciutto. However, I wanted to see how far I could integrate this into some other recipes and so I turned to pasta.
The ‘trick’ if there is one to using chard successfully is finding a way to bring the inherent tartness and earthiness of the leaf and/or stem into balance with the rest of the dish.
My solution in this case was to grill a marinated chicken breast in what I’ll call a ‘raw’ or crude pesto: basil, oil, and garlic. This would bring some sweet and earth to the dish as well. Next, marry the tartness of the chard with more rounded flavours of lemon and tomato and add a pesto into the sauce itself. And, finally, pull this all together with some sweet and earthiness of sun-dried tomatoes with the addition of a deconstructed pesto (parmesan, pine nuts, and basil) to top. In other words, you can think of this pesto three-ways or at least basil three-ways.
Choosing the right pasta was going to be the final challenge to figure out for this recipe, so I went to the Italian grocery and stared at the shelves looking for something that wouldn’t get knotted in the chard leaves and which could carry the sauce of the dish. Long pastas were out; penne seemed wrong because I didn’t think the sauce would be thin or copious enough to coat the inside of the tubes. Part of me liked the idea of fussili, and this would have worked, but when I saw the farfalloni (aka “bow tie” pasta) I knew I had a winner. My only problem is that I couldn’t find an acceptable gluten-free product, so I bought a high-quality wheat product and conceded to try a gluten-free penne for Anne.
The result was a truly amazing and unique pasta dish which was simply ‘great.’ The chard really worked in this dish and belonged — but the best indicator of success is that it also tasted great even to people not crazy about chard.
This recipe is definitely a keeper and one which we’ll be coming back to again and again as the chard keeps coming.
Marinade Time: 1-2 hours (or night before) for chicken
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 90 minutes
Farfalloni with Grilled Chicken and Swiss Chard
- 4 boneless chicken breast halves, skin-on
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped chiffonade
- 2 gloves garlic, chopped
- Fresh grated pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 lb (500g) farfalloni pasta
→ reserve pasta water (see below)
- 6 cups chard leaves (stems removed) cut into 3/4″ strips
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium (1 cup) onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1¼ cups chopped tomatoes
- 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled or diced
- 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
→ preferably ‘dried’ and not packed in oil.
- 1/4 cup pesto
- 1/2 cup pasta water
- salt and pepper to taste (it shouldn’t need much of either)
- 2 tablespoons of fresh basil, chiffonade
- freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (optional)
- Begin by marinating the chicken breasts. This can either be done a few hours before preparing the dish or the night before. In either a non-reactive glass bowl or a ziplock freezer bag, place the chicken breasts. Add in the chopped basil and garlic and grate in fresh pepper.
Add enough olive oil to evenly coat the breasts and allow ingredients to mix. Cover or seal and refrigerate. Room from fridge 30 minutes before grilling.→ DO NOT ADD SALT. Tempting as it might be, the salt will extract essential water from the breasts and produce a drier and tougher product. Instead, you will salt the breasts just before grilling.
- After breasts have marinaded and you’re ready to prepare dinner, pre-heat grill to 400ºF. Also, place a pasta pot on the stove and set to boil.
- Start your prep of the pasta. Begin by using a sharp knife to remove the centre vein and stems from the chard leaves. Discard the stems or save for another dish.
Roll the leaves together and slice them across into ¾” (1 cm) wide slices. Toss the sliced leaves into a salad spinner and wash, drain, and spin dry and set aside.
- Zest the lemon and chop the garlic.
- Toast the pine nuts in a pan, ‘frying’ until golden brown. Remove pine nuts from pan and set aside.
- Prepare the tomatoes (if making your own tomato puree — or use canned tomatoes if not); measure out the pesto and feta.
- Grill the chicken breasts. Now lightly salt them and then place them on the grill, skin-side down, and barbecue them for 7 minutes per side.
Grill until nice grill marks appear and the skin-side is dark gold. Remove when the juices in the centre run clear … or when a meat thermometer registers 160ºF. Remove and let stand.
- Start cooking the pasta now, following instructions.
→ If pasta finishes before the sauce is ready, make sure you reserve a cup of the starchy, flavourful pasta water.
- Heat a large pan over medium-high heat and add the chopped onions and good about 7 minutes until golden. Quickly add the add garlic and stir for another minute.
Add the wine and deglaze the pan.
- Lower the heat and add the lemon zest, sun-dried tomatoes, and the pesto and mix.
- Add the tomato sauce to the pan and increase heat to medium-high and heat liquid until it is almost boiling.
- Add the chard leaves to the sauce now and cover until leaves wilt down, about 3-5 minutes.
- Add the cubed feta to the dish now and mix in and add about 1/2 cup of pasta water to the sauce. Don’t add too much water or you’ll thin it too much and it won’t cling to the pasta and will lack flavour. Taste for salt and pepper and season to your taste.
- Take the chicken which should be more than ‘warm’ still and the juices reabsorbed back into the breasts. Slice them lengthwise and then chop them into strips. Set aside.
- Drain the pasta, but don’t rinse, and add it to the sauce in either the pan or in a separate large bowl so that you can mix it well together.
- On a plate or pasta bowl, begin to plate the dish by piling some pasta and sauce high together, ensuring you evenly distribute the chard.
- Top with slices of chicken then freshly grated parmesan. Then finish with chopped fresh basil and toasted pine nuts.
Wine Pairing: Serve with a nice Chardonnay.