Spicy Sausage and Swiss Chard Pasta

CSA season, which lasts from May to November, is my crazy challenge. A CSA, short for Community Supported Agriculture, is a way to buy into a local farm for the growing season. You pay for a yearly subscription upfront and, in turn, receive a share of produce from the farm on a set schedule (usually weekly). The produce is, of course, picked that week and so you receive whatever is in season right then, with no exceptions. Some CSAs give you other share options besides vegetables, such as fruit, eggs, or cheese. I’ve been doing this for 3 years now. The vegetables are exceptional and I enjoy being able to pitch in to support an area farm.

The one downfall? My weekly veggie share is a bit, well, aggressive for a 2-person household. So I have fun with it and take a certain perverse pride in using up whatever I can by the end of the week.

This can get daunting, especially when you weekly box has multiples of one item. How many meals can you eat with cucumbers? What about kohlrabi?  Should you just pickle everything? Freeze it into small portions for later meals?  So many options, and usually so little time.

For the rest of the July I’m going to share recipes that have been helpful in my own weekly conquest to finish up the veggie box.

Behold, recipe #1: Penne with Spicy Sausage and Chard, AKA a simple yet elegant meal that uses up an entire bunch of swiss chard.

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A cause for a celebration.

This recipe is everything to me. It’s the best weeknight meal you can throw together in a half hour. It’s budget friendly and calls for normal pantry staples (box of pasta, stock, garlic). It also has room for improvisation. Don’t have chard? Cook down some other greens instead. No ricotta salata AND no feta?  Maybe throw in a salty cheese like pecorino, or perhaps even try a sprinkle of goat cheese at the end (I say at the end because soft goat cheese won’t toss well.) Clearly from the picture I’ve gone ahead and used ziti instead of penne – all in the spirit of improvisation, right?  Ziti, penne, whatever – I’m not really a pasta purist so it’s all close enough to me.

What really makes this dish stand out is the cooking down of the chicken stock. Don’t skip this step!  It works as a sort of binder and slightly thickens the overall dish with a savory sauce. It feels more complete instead of simply throwing together the ingredients after the pasta is cooked. Think of it as a more savory version of leftover pasta water that cooks use when tossing linguine and red sauce.

There you have it, one bunch of greens down. If you happen to have TWO bunches of chard, you can always cut the other bunch, blanch it in boiling water for 2 minutes, dry thoroughly, and portion it out for the freezer…

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Mini bunch of frozen swiss chard to be put to use later. (really, I’m not eating that now.)

Recipe: Food and Wine

Kitchen Mess: 2 out of 4.

Recommended For:  After work, ways to use up a couple links of really good hot Italian sausage, a crisper overflowing with greens.

Not Recommended For: Show-offs.