Red Chard Pasta with Red Fresno Chilies

red chard pasta

Quick boil some water! No, I’m not having a baby– it’s Default Red Chard Pasta Night.

At my house, Default Pasta makes regular appearances. In fact, I’d even go so far as to call these appearances star turns. That’s because learning how to bring forth quick, flavorful weeknight meals can be a lifesaver.

There are a lot of good reasons to master the concept of Default Pasta. Maybe you haven’t been to the grocery store for weeks on end and the fridge and pantry are pretty bare. Maybe you’ve just been busy, really busy. Of course in my world (well, most of our worlds really) Default Pasta Night happens at the end of a long day, when we’re tired, hungry and just want to get dinner out of the way with minimal mess and plenty of flavor.

That’s what the pot of boiling water I used as my opening hook is for; cooking dried pasta, the greatest friend a weeknight cook has ever had.

Red Chard Pasta with Red Fresno Chilies

This version of Red Chard Pasta comes together very easily– even for default pasta. That’s because I almost always have some sort of greens around the house. Greens are a great addition to pasta dishes. I like red Swiss chard for this dish particularly well. Red Swiss chard is a bit more flavorful than green Swiss chard and tastes like a milder version of beet greens in my opinion. In fact, beet greens would make a great substitution. I also reached for red Fresno chilies at the last minute when prepping this dish. I liked the red/red aspect. Besides, one of the rules for Default Pasta is it needs to be pretty. Red Chard Pasta is pretty. So quick boil some water! GREG

Red Chard Pasta

Orecchiette with Red Chard and Chilies 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Published

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.

Pasta with Red Chard and Chilies


  • 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.