Orecchiette With Bacony Collards & Cannellini Beans

November  9, 2020
21 Ratings
Author Notes

Tough collard greens cook down in garlicky bacon fat, then simmer in broth or water until totally tender and silky—the ideal companion for creamy cannellini beans and chewy pasta. Use any hearty green here, like kale, escarole, or carrot tops. And feel free to swap out the bacon for turkey or vegan bacon if you prefer; just add a bit more oil or butter to compensate.

This one-pot pasta also has a trick up its sleeve: The pasta is soaked while we prepare everything else, so it quickly cooks to al dente in the same pot as the greens. Shorter shapes, like orecchiette and macaroni, work best with this method, but if all you have are longer shapes, just snap them into one-inch pieces.

Only have tender greens? They melt down in less time and with less cooking liquid. Try Ditalini With Tender Herbs, Chickpeas & Yogurt.

And read more about this greens-beans-pasta technique here, so you have the confidence to take it off-script. —Sohla El-Waylly

  • Prep time 25 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Serves 4
  • 5 ounces (1 1/2 cups) orecchiette (or another short dry pasta, like macaroni or penne)
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock or water, divided
  • 4 slices (6 ounces) thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 pound collard greens (about 2 small bunches)
  • 1 (15.5-oz.) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes, depending on your spice tolerance
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ounce Parmesan or pecorino, finely grated (about 1 cup), plus more to serve
  • 1 tablespoon butter (unsalted and salted both work)
In This Recipe
  1. Put the pasta in a small bowl and cover with 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock or water, stirring occasionally to make sure the pasta isn’t clumping together.
  2. Add the bacon to a medium Dutch oven along with 2 tablespoons of water. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat melts out of the bacon and the bacon grows brown and crisp, 12 to 15 minutes. (If you’re using turkey bacon, add 1 tablespoon of any oil along with the water.)
  3. Meanwhile, smash, peel, and finely chop the garlic. Strip the collard leaves from the stems. Stack the leaves and cut lengthwise into four long sections. Stack the pieces and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch thick strips (you should have about 6 cups lightly packed).
  4. Using a slotted spoon, scoop the bacon from the Dutch oven and transfer to a plate, leaving the fat behind. Add the garlic and cook until tender and aromatic, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds.
  5. Add the collards, the remaining 2 1/2 cups of chicken stock or water, and a big pinch of salt and black pepper. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain an active simmer. Add the beans and cook, partially covered, until the liquid has reduced to about 1 cup and the greens are tender and silky, 40 to 45 minutes. Taste the greens and add more salt and black pepper if needed. (You want it to be very well seasoned at this point, so the liquid and greens can season the pasta.)
  6. Add the pasta along with the soaking liquid and simmer, stirring constantly, until the pasta is al dente, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the cheese, butter, and reserved bacon, and stir well to combine. Taste and add more salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes if needed.
  7. Divide the pasta among 4 bowls and garnish with more cheese.

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Sohla El-Waylly is a Food52 Resident, sharing new riffable recipes every month that'll help you get creative in the kitchen. Watch her cook on YouTube in her new series, Off-Script With Sohla. Before she started developing fun recipes for home cooks, she worked as a chef in N.Y.C. and L.A., briefly owning a restaurant in Brooklyn with her husband and fellow chef, Ham El-Waylly. She lives in the East Village with Ham, their two dogs, and cat. Find out what else she's up to on Instagram @sohlae.