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Spaghetti with Swiss Chard and Toasted Garlic Breadcrumbs

Anyone read Dwell magazine? It’s one of my favorites, with lots of what one friend calls “architecture porn.” Where am I going with this, you ask. How could anyone make an analogy between architecture and pasta? It’s a stretch, I’ll admit, but this dish somehow makes me think of a modest, modern 1,200-square-foot house built from humble materials like plywood, concrete and metal that is so well designed, executed and balanced it surprises and becomes something more than its “ingredients.”

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If this “pasta con il pangrattato” or pasta with breadcrumbs doesn’t make you feel like you’re getting something awesome for next to nothing, I don’t know what will. It’s an easy weeknight dish that uses the simplest (and cheap!) ingredients that you probably already have on hand. I make breadcrumbs by air drying or toasting those last pieces of bread from the loaf or baguette no one wants to eat. It’s satisfying to bludgeon them with a heavy meat tenderizer tool (put them inside a plastic bag first so you don’t spray bits of bread all around the kitchen) while visualizing that guy who almost mowed me down in the crosswalk.

I love the contrast of the wilted greens with the crunchy breadcrumbs. The addition of lemon zest at the end brightens up the flavors.

Spaghetti with Swiss Chard and Toasted Garlic Breadcrumbs
- serves 4 -

1 T olive oil
3 T bread crumbs
1 clove garlic, minced
salt & pepper

2-3 T olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ t red pepper flakes (or more, to taste)
4 cups swiss chard, roughly chopped
salt & pepper
¾ lb. spaghetti
zest of ½ lemon
olive oil
Parmesan cheese

Put a pot of water on to boil. While this is heating up, make the rest of the dish:

For the breadcrumbs: Heat 1T olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add garlic and salt and pepper. Cook for a minute or so to flavor the oil. Don’t burn the garlic! Add the breadcrumbs, stirring to coat in the oil. Add a little more salt and pepper, to taste. When the breadcrumbs are toasted (about five minutes), scrape them out of the pan onto a plate and set aside.

For the swiss chard: In the same pan, add the 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, the three cloves of minced garlic, red pepper flakes, a little salt and pepper, and sauté until the garlic just begins to brown. Add the swiss chard stems first, cook for a few minutes and then add the leaves and salt and pepper. Cook just until the leaves are wilted.

For the pasta: Once the water comes to a boil, add salt and then the pasta. Cook until al dente.

To assemble: Scoop the cooked pasta out of the pot and directly into the sauté pan with the swiss chard. If you’d prefer to strain the pasta, just be sure to reserve some of the pasta water. Stir pasta and swiss chard with a drizzle of olive oil and some of the pasta water (pasta should not be dry). Add the lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with toasted garlic breadcrumbs and grated parmesan cheese.


    1. Tehemina says:

      Just wanted to let you know that this turned out perfectly, and I am happy to announce that it can be added to the “list of things to cook with Z in the kitchen” (which is a short list). Yum. yum. Double yum. I could eat the breadcrumbs alone all day long.

    2. jmarshall says:

      T – glad it was good! Nothing like carbs to make you feel better in the winter. So it’s kid-proof, eh? Did Z like it? :)

    3. TC says:

      I made this with lobster gruyere ravioli minus the bread crumbs and it was delish! I loved the tip about the pasta water. The lemon zest adds a great fresh taste. Enjoy.

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