Orecchiette with Red Chard and Chilies are a flavorful and quick meal. The anchovies are optional but I promise they don’t make this pasta taste “fishy” so come on and try them.
Orecchiette come from Puglia, where they are traditionally handmade. The joke is that everyone in Puglia has big, bent thumbs from pressing this pasta into the little ear shapes that give them their name.
- 1 bunch red chard (about 3/4 lbs, stems removed and retained, leaves torn into 2-inch pieces)
- 4 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (divided)
- 2 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
- 2 red fresno chilies (halved lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced crosswise)
- ½ pound dried orecchiette
- 4 anchovy fillets (oil packed or salt packed and rinsed) optional
- 1 pinch kosher salt (plus 2 tablespoons more for boiling)
- 1 pinch freshly cracked black pepper (or as needed)
Thinly slice the chard stems crosswise; set aside.
Set a large pot of water over high heat, bring to a boil then add about 1 tablespoon salt (or to taste). Blanch the torn chard leaves for about a minute. Drain and squeeze to remove the excess water; chop well. Set aside. These steps can be done several hours ahead if you like.
To continue, warm 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan set over medium heat, add the sliced chard stems and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sliced chilies; cook the mixture gently, stirring occasionally until softened but not yet beginning to color, about 2 minutes more. Add the anchovies (if using), breaking them up with a wooden spoon until dissolved into the sauce. Add the blanched chard; tossing to coat thoroughly. Add another tablespoon of olive oil; toss to coat. Turn off the heat, but leave the pan on the burner.
Meanwhile, set a large pot of water of high heat, bring to a boil then add about 1 tablespoon salt (or to taste). Stir in the orecchiette and cook according to package instructions until al dente. Leave the pasta in the water momentarily.
Working quickly, turn the heat back to medium under the sauté pan with the chard, garlic and chilies. Once it begins to bubble ladle about 1 cup pasta cooking water into the pan. Taste and season with a pinch each salt and pepper if necessary .
Drain the pasta and add it to the pan containing the sauce. Cook the mixture, stirring occasionally to integrat the flavors, about 2 more minutes. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil; toss well to coat and serve immediately.