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Penne with Creamed Greens and Pancetta

October  4, 2011

Penne with Creamed Greens and Pancetta

- Amanda

Greens like kale, chard and mustard are like a troublesome boyfriend. At the market, they look so appealing, so lush and irresistable. But as soon as I get them home, I find myself stressed out by how much room they take up in the fridge, and how quickly they begin to lose their lustre.

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Cooking is the only way to tame them. On a recent market trip, I picked up dinosaur kale and a gorgeous bunch of broccoli rabe. By evening, when I'd grown tired of their ways at home, I tossed them both into a big pot and cooked them down with olive oil, cream and red pepper flakes. They would have made a very fine side of creamed greens (and if that's what you want, you may stop after step 2 of the recipe). These, however, had a longer journey ahead. Next I coarsely pureed the greens in a food processor, tossing in some creme fraiche for good measure. Lastly, I tossed them with penne, pancetta, and the ultimate mediator, grated pecorino cheese. This dish is big on the mineral and bitter flavors of the greens, and I liked this ruggedness. If you want to soften it up a bit, add some toasted pine nuts.

It wasn't until days after I'd made this dish that I realized its unconscious inspiration -- clearly apartmentcooker's winning recipe in the greens contest: Kale with Pancetta Cream and Toasted Rosemary Walnuts. Man, how I love creamed greens!

Penne with Creamed Greens and Pancetta

Serves 4

  • Salt
  • 1/4 pound pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 pound bunch broccoli rabe, rinsed and trimmed
  • 1 medium bunch dinosaur kale, rinsed and stems trimmed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/3 cup creme fraiche
  • 1 pound penne rigate
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons grated pecorino Romano

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Like this post? See Amanda's post from last week: Radish Salad with Anchovy Sauce

Photos by Jennifer Causey

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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Amanda Hesser

Written by: Amanda Hesser

Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.


ctgal October 9, 2011
Perfect! I have some dinosaur kale and sweet tender collards left from the week's CSA haul. I have everything except the pancetta. But I do have some bacon. Not the same, but it will work. Thank you, Amanda, again, for dinner tonight.
Julie N. October 5, 2011
It's funny, the Kale recipe was also my inspiration to do a penne and broccoli dish - similar to yours, but rather than cream and pecorino, I went for a creamy blue - gorgonzola. Was also lovely. With some sauteed onions and also a couple handfuls of sweet corn just cut off the cob tossed in as well.
EmilyC October 4, 2011
This looks like a great, totally approachable weeknight meal, something I suspect my son will gobble up. I became a big fan of greens and pasta after trying the swiss chard casserole with farfelle and goat cheese in your NYTimes cookbook earlier this summer. This looks equally if not more delicious.
Oui, C. October 4, 2011
I'm a huge fan of bitter greens and pasta, so I was in love with this recipe from the start. Menacing the greens with oil is a nice bonus, though. - S
bk_novice October 4, 2011
this sounds so yummy! speaking of apartment cooker's winning recipe, I have made it twice, both times not as a side, but as a pasta dish with orecchiette. it was delicious! I highly recommend it for people who love their greens/pasta/pancetta!
tota October 4, 2011
Since I have a stubborn vegetarian at home, what can I replace the pancetta with in this fab recipe? I am a huge fan of dinokale, and broccoli rabe so this is happening soon at my place!
Elaura October 5, 2011
it won´t be the same, but maybe a big pinch of smoked paprika?
TheWimpyVegetarian October 4, 2011
Perfect!!! This is TOTALLY dinner tonight!! Love it love it love it.
Nicole C. October 4, 2011
What a fabulous combination. I feel the same way about the leafy greens and this sounds like a great solution. I love things with pork fat and cream too, so I'm gonna jump on this soon!!!
ChefJune October 4, 2011
Amanda, you and I clearly love playing with our food in a similar manner. This looks and sounds SO appetizing to me. And largely because I make similar dishes on a regular basis. Now you've got me planning to stop off at WFM for some fresh greens to make this tonight!

Thanks! :)
cookerT October 4, 2011
This works for me and I bet it would have less of a bite without the broccoli raab. Dinosaur Kale is pretty mild in comparison. I like this idea and a green centered diet is the way to eat!
Lizthechef October 4, 2011
Big spinach and chard would work well here too, I think..."Dinosaur kale" sounds pretty frightening ;)
Bevi October 4, 2011
I just finished my second kale salad in 24 hours, wondering what I was going to do with the rest of the soon-to-wilt bunch. Now I know!
aargersi October 4, 2011
Healthy stuff AND cream and creme fraiche!! Perfect!
ashleychasesdinner October 4, 2011
I agree aargersi!! I am making this for dinner, something for everyone in my family!