Orecchiette with Spring Greens

A year ago I came across an orechhiette recipe that I loved from the cooks behind the magazine, Cooking Light. As I scrolled through all the recipes I've written about in the last seven years, I realized I hadn't included it. It's simple but delicious. So make it for yourself or serve it up for a Sunday night family dinner.

8 cups (about 9 oz.) packed baby Swiss chard, baby kale or spinach*
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1/2 lb. (8 oz.) orecchiette
6 tbsp. unsalted butter

1 cup walnuts

a handful (about 1/4 cup) of grated Pecorino or Parmigiano
salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

Place greens in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Let sit for five minutes to allow any dirt to settle. Scoop greens from water and place in a large colander to drain. Any water clinging to the leaves is just fine. 

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the tablespoon of salt and stir in the pasta. 

In a large sauté pan (large enough to fit the pasta and greens) melt the butter over medium heat. Once the butter begins turning brown and smelling nutty, turn off the heat.

Meanwhile, in a small sauté pan over medium heat, toast the walnuts until they become lightly browned and fragrant, about 10 minutes. (Alternatively, toast the walnuts on a baking sheet at 350F for 8 to 10 minutes—watch closely to prevent burning.) Place the toasted walnuts in a tea towel and rub together to remove papery skin. Transfer walnuts to a sieve and shake again to remove any additional skin. I know this is fussy, but it makes a difference. Set aside.

Boil pasta till al dente. Reserve one half cup of the cooking liquid and set aside—you might not even need this, but it can be nice to have on hand. Drain pasta directly over the colander filled with the greens.
Bring the brown butter back up to temperature over medium or medium-high heat; add the pasta and greens to the pan. Add the walnuts and toss to coat. Grate cheese over top and toss again. Taste. Add more salt (if you have salted the cooking water with the tablespoon of kosher salt, you shouldn’t have to add too much more salt) and pepper to taste. If necessary add some of the pasta cooking liquid to the pan—it’s nice to have reserved pasta cooking liquid on hand if you make this ahead and need to reheat it, but just beware that the cooking liquid is salty. Serve pasta, passing more cheese on the side.

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