As someone who cooks for a living and loves to eat, I am always excited about spring. The temperatures warm and it’s the beginning of the season for most OTP farmers markets, with the exception of year-round Marietta Farmers Market. Luckily Atlanta temperatures don’t dip too low in winter, allowing the vegetables to flourish throughout the year.
This past weekend I visited Marietta Farmers Market and saw an abundance of spring fruits and veggies, including collard greens, strawberries, lettuce, mushrooms and swiss chard.
The Swiss chard was a pleasant surprise — it was striking with large, robust leaves and colorful stalks of orange, pink and yellow in contrast to grocery store chard that often only has white stalks. Many people discard the stalks unknowing they are just as edible as the leaves.
Like Spinach, Swiss chard is a versatile, nutritious leafy green. It is the perfect backdrop to accompany cooked meats and fish, and an ideal addition to soups.
One recipe which came to mind was frittata with sliced and sautéed swiss chard, onions and mushrooms with eggs. Even though it would make an impressive brunch dish, I wanted something more substantial for dinner.
Clients often ask me for recipes that are simple, healthy and easy. I recommend a pasta with chard and ground beef in a creamy ricotta sauce. The meat can be omitted if you prefer a vegetarian version.
Rigatoni with Swiss Chard in Creamy Sauce
12 ounces or 3/4 pound rigatoni
1 tablespoon salt, for pasta water
3 1/2 cups sliced swiss chard leaves
1 cup chopped swiss chard stalks
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup or 8 ounces ground beef, chuck
1 cup whole milk ricotta
1 cup cooked pasta water
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon red chili flakes
2 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese, divided
Bring a large pot of water to boil. When water is boiling, add 1 tablespoon of salt and stir in rigatoni. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box, approximately 11 minutes.
While pasta is cooking, pull swiss chard leaves from the stalks. Sliced the leaves until you get 3 ½ cups worth of leaves. Chop the chard stalks in small cubes to fill 1 cup.
Dice onions and finely chop garlic cloves.
In a large 12- 14” skillet or pan, add olive oil on medium low heat. Add diced onions and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Then add diced swiss chard stalks and cook for 2-3 more minutes. Stalks take longer to cook then leaves. Add ¼ teaspoon of salt and black pepper.
Add ground beef and break up the meat in the pan with a spatula. If the meat is browning too quickly, reduce the heat to low. When the ground beef is almost cooked, stir in sliced chard leaves.
In a small bowl, combine ricotta and hot pasta water to make a sauce.
Stir in the ricotta-pasta water mixture to the pan, rest of the salt and red chili flakes.
When rigatoni is cooked, drain. Add the pasta to the skillet with swiss chard and ground beef. Stir to combine the creamy sauce with pasta.
Serve warm with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.
Check out all of the local farmers markets happening in an OTP town near you this season.
Chef Krishna is the owner of local Green Eats. She is a personal chef and caterer serving the OTP community. She has knowledge in a wide range of cuisines and enjoys cooking Mediterranean, Spanish, Mexican, and Indian foods. For more information check out her website.