Creamy Swiss Chard Pasta With Leeks

April 24, 2020

Serves 4 (smaller portions)

I tried this recipe from the New York Times a few months ago and thought it was worth some tweaking and sharing. The addition of nutritional yeast in the breadcrumb mixture intrigued me. When I tasted it, I wasn't sure how I felt about it. What's up with this? Do I like it? Or, not so much? My brain was confused by the flavor which is kind of difficult to describe if you have never tried nutritional yeast. But, then it hit me. Not only do I like it, I LOVE it! It adds this incredible and unique, salty, umami kind of thang. It, in a way, reminds me of that unctuous, mouthfeel situation I often experience when eating mushrooms. It adds a real earthiness to the dish and it would just NOT be the same without it. I made this pasta once, then twice, and now it's become a staple in our home. Other than maybe the yeast, the other ingredients are easy to get a hold of. I did reduce the amount of nutritional yeast to just 2 T but the recipe does call for 3. I love this with spaghetti but any type of pasta would work fine. This is an incredibly flavorful vegetarian meal.

Ingredients: 1 bunch Swiss Chard 2 large leeks, or a few smaller ones 5 T unsalted butter 2 T nutritional yeast 1/2 C panko breadcrumbs salt and pepper to taste 2 garlic cloves, minced or sliced thin 1 T fresh thyme 2 C veg or chicken stock 1 C heavy cream zest from one lemon 3/4 C grated Parmigiano cheese 1/4 C chopped fresh tarragon 1 lb spaghetti or pasta of your choice Method: Wash and dry the Chard. Remove the leaves from the stems and tear them into bite-sized pieces. Chop the stems (about 1/4 inch thick). Set aside. Trim about 1/4 inch off the bottom of the leeks and remove the darker green portions on top. Chop the leeks into 1/2 inch sized pieces. This doesn't have to be perfect AT ALL. Put the chopped leeks into a bowl of cold water and swoosh them around so any dirt will separate and fall to the bottom of the bowl. Remove the leeks with a slotted spoon and dry them on paper towels. Set aside. Prepare your breadcrumb mixture. Melt 2 T butter in a small pan over low heat. Add the breadcrumbs and stir, until a golden brown. Be careful because they can go from golden brown to scorched pretty quickly. Remove from the heat, add the nutritional yeast and pepper. Taste and add some salt if needed. Set aside.  

Fill a large pot with water. Add enough salt so it tastes like the sea, turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter over medium heat in a saute pan that is large enough to accommodate the sauce and the pasta when it's done cooking. (You will be making the sauce and adding the pasta to this same pan). Add the leeks, chard stems, garlic, thyme and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks wilt and start to take on some golden color, about 10 minutes. Add the stock, cream, and zest. Bring to a simmer and let cook for about 5 minutes. Then add the chard leaves and continue cooking for another 5-10 minutes until the sauce reduces slightly and starts to thicken. Taste and season with salt if needed. Meanwhile, you can add your pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the package directions. (reserve about 1 C of that pasta cooking water before draining, you might need it later). Please take off about 3 minutes from the total cooking time of the pasta because you will drain the pasta, add it to the pan with the sauce ingredients, and let it cook in that pan for another few minutes. This way, the pasta will really get a chance to absorb the flavors of the sauce. If for some reason the sauce has become too thick, don't fret. That's why you saved some of that flavorful pasta water. Just add a small ladleful to the sauce to loosen it up. Once you add the pasta to your sauce, sprinkle in the Parmigiano cheese and tarragon and mix. Before serving, add some of the breadcrumbs to each individual bowl, feel free to top with more cheese, tarragon, and zest. Enjoy!

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