Riff On This Ready-in-20 Pasta All Week (But First, Try It With Nduja)

August 21, 2017

Pasta with a small amount of meat and greens (bitter or otherwise) is a classic southern Italian template, from Abruzzese sausage with broccoli raab to Neapolitan pancetta with turnip greens. I love working with this combination: The fatty pork adds a little richness to the dish, and the bitter greens cuts that richness. They both play off the neutral flavor of the pasta.

This will not take you long to prepare. At all. Photo by Julia Gartland

I always like to have a stick of pancetta or guanciale in my fridge, so that I can easily throw together a quick, nutritious, and deeply satisfying dish simply by grabbing some greens on my way home from work, and taking out the pasta and olive oil—ubiquitous pantry staples, if I may. Depending on my mood, I add a chili to the pan while I render the meat, and smash a clove of garlic or two. I might slosh a splash of white wine in to help steam the greens, and I generally like to really cook the greens. Italians love their greens falling apart, as that’s when the natural, hidden sugars of the greens come out. (Broccoli raab, mustard or dandelion greens work best, but simple spinach will do just fine.)

Once you understand the pairing, it’s easy to play around with it, using the basic technique of rendering the pork out in a little olive oil and then adding greens, already blanched if you’re using something tough (like broccoli raab and kale). If you’re using something tender, like spinach or chard, skip the blanching and toss them straight into pan. I love adding fried bread crumbs—which, in southern Italy, was traditionally used instead of cheese, until the very recent past, when cheese stopped becoming a luxury product. Of course, because I am not a poor sharecropper eking out a living, I also like a sprinkling of strong pecorino, because it’s pecorino.

Cheese *and* breadcrumbs go well here, because, why not. Photo by Julia Gartland

Nduja, once obscure—so much so that I was not familiar with it when I was living in Italy—is a spicy, spreadable fermented sausage, available at many grocery stores and online. The pork’s spreadability makes it versatile, and once removed from its casing, it dissolves easily into the pan. Since nduja is already highly seasoned, so I don’t add much else to the pan besides the pasta and greens. (If you can spot the heirloom spigarello broccoli at a farmers market, that’s a bonus—but the beauty of this template is its riff-ability.)

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1 Comment

susan August 21, 2017
I've been using nduja for some time in all sorts of preparations. It is wonderful as a bruschetti topping. For pasta sauce, I render out a little nduja, throw in some really good cherry tomatoes and slivered garlic and heat till a sauce forms. Add pasta. Then cheese. Can't wait to give yours a try.