Orecchiette With Bacony Collards & Cannellini Beans

May 18, 2021
54 Ratings
  • Prep time 25 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Serves 4
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

What You'll Need
  • 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)
  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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

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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

69 Reviews

Ziggy S. January 16, 2023
I have made this recipe at least 10 times at this point. It’s amazing for lunch prep-gets better every day! I pretty consistently add a chopped onion, but it’s great on its own, with onions, with a baby Serrano pepper, with black-eyed peas instead of cannellini, even without the bacon/with veg stock/nutritional yeast instead of parm if you want a vegetarian version. Every variant I’ve tried has been great. Terrific recipe!
kathryn C. March 7, 2022
Saw this today and made it for dinner. Wow, creamy, tasty and worthy of it becoming a keeper. I used kale as I had it on hand and needed to use it. Hubby and I loved it. Thank you!
ashtray2001 March 2, 2022
My latest adaptation of this is when I used chorizo instead of ham which added an insane depth of flavour, and rich smokiness to the dish with cavolo nero, with a squeeze of lemon at the end. This combination of pasta, bean, green and fatty meat is where I run to every time I'm slightly fed-up or under the weather - and truly is very adaptable.
Katiewhitt February 9, 2022
i make this almost every sunday and have it as lunch at work. it's filling and comforting while also getting some veggies in. Love the pasta soaking tip, just make sure to stir a few times to keep the pasta from clumping
Jessannet January 24, 2022
This has made it into our weekly rotation, we've probably made it 15 times by now. It's an incredible recipe just as it is written. Here are some tips I have learned along the way and well as substitutions*:

- Make sure you chop the greens small enough. The texture is not as good if you accidentally go to big.
- Depending on your bacon quality, it's possibly to end up with too much fat and you'll have to pour some out.

This recipe is easy to make substitutions for, as Sohla indicates. We regularly switch out the bacon for chorizo and the chard for kale, if that is what we have in our fridge. You may need to add additional fat if using chorizo.

Lastly, chickpea pasta works well in this if you want to use it for dietary reasons. The flavour of the chickpeas really compliments the chard/bacon. We've done this three times, and have learned not to soak the chickpea pasta, cut back on the salt a little, and add additional cooking time on the end.

*5/5 stars is for the original recipe as written. Including substitutions we've tried in our household just in case it's useful to someone else.
Nan January 16, 2022
Just not enough flavor for me. Followed the recipe exactly except I doubled the pasta, chicken stock and bacon. Pasta soaking trick didn’t work for me. Needed to cook almost 10 minutes longer to get to al dente. It’s similar to Italian broccoli rabe with sausage and orecchiette except for the pasta soaking method. You blanch the greens then boil the pasta in the greens cooking water and save some of that water to create the sauce. I think collards are just more bland than broccoli rabe and sausage just has more complex flavor than bacon. Maybe will try with kale and sausage next time. Entertaining video though.
Ligu January 8, 2022
This recipe is absolutely delicious, but the pasta soaking trick didn't work for me unfortunately. The orecchiette clumped together in little stacks like the towers of Goomba mushrooms from the Super Mario games(and despite my frequent stirring!). When I added them to the pot they still refused to separate and I ended up cooking it for much longer than the recipe called for - and I still had some clumps of pasta with raw interiors. The extra time also caused the beans to break down more than the recipe intended and left me with a very thick broth. All that said, it still tasted incredible! Next time I would either use a different pasta shape that isn't inclined to stick to itself, or just boil the pasta in a separate pot and add it in at the end.
Kiara S. December 28, 2021
Brilliant cooking method that results in a lovely, creamy dish. I've made this 3x now. I made it as written the first time - totally awesome, but ended up adding a squeeze of lemon to each bowl. The second and third times I added some lemon after cooking, before plating. Love this! Simple yet elegant.
Rose E. December 28, 2021
Fell upon this last year and fell in love. Been experimenting with different greens. Tonight we had beet tops, celery leaves, brussel sprouts and spinach. I used chunks of honey baked ham instead of bacon. It was amazing. We ate the whole pot.
ChristopherD August 24, 2021
This recipe is a keeper! It's very easy to make and as others have noted, so flavorful and satisfying as written but also easily adaptable to whatever you have on hand or want to add in. This will be in our rotation this fall and winter for sure. As a personal challenge with my instant pot, I adapted the recipe and was not disappointed. I followed the recipe steps and amounts as written but used the saute function to render the bacon and sweat the veggies; cooked the greens and beans on high pressure for 20 mins (used about 1/2 the water indicated, reserving the rest in case needed later); finished up by boiling the pasta with the greens on the saute setting, then added the crispy bacon once everything else was done. I'm not sure it saved any time in the long run but still a one pot recipe and the result tasted like it had been cooking all day. Delicious!
ChicagoLauren June 24, 2021
With Sohla’s off script on greens and beans I have learned a new skill of using any of these leafy greens and putting together a tasty soup. I have made several dishes now none of them the same. Any pasta, orzo, rice etc any green any any bean aromatics any fat etc etc. I think the #1 goal has been eating the greens which I really never tried any before. Kale collard, mustard, etc. adding any vegetable too! Thank you Sohla! And my favorite tool is my Staub Dutch oven so there’s that.
jennaom May 20, 2021
This recipe is a winner, especially since I'm trying to work more beans and greens into my diet. I was overjoyed that I actually had all the ingredients on hand already! I used kale, chickpeas, pancetta, and homemade chicken stock, sautéed in some onion, and added a little lemon zest and juice at the end. I was skeptical for a while. The greens tasted a bit bland as they cooked, and my orecchiette took 9 minutes to get borderline al dente. But it all came together in a big way at the end with the butter, parm, and pancetta. I recommend not skimping on those ingredients. It's surprisingly filling as well. Will make again!
Meg H. March 30, 2021
I love Sohla's recipes so much! Made this twice now and I just don't want to stop eating it! It's so delicious and I wish I owned a bigger pot so I could double it and have more leftovers. Even if it might a little odd buying that many greens at the grocery store...
Jul March 19, 2021
Amazing! This is really so delicious! Added a tiny bit of lemon at end. Could see crisp breadcrumbs going on top too. This is a winner! Thanks!
Melissa M. February 28, 2021
This is a beautiful and satisfying dish, and a great way to get your greens in! I've made it a few times and have found I like to double the beans, and add them in a bit later so they don't break down too much. If I have a chunk of onion sitting around I throw that in with the garlic. The sauce is so velvety!
laurbar11 February 16, 2021
This was amazing! The pasta soaking trick is gold. So easy to swap ingredients based on what you have. This is going in my repertoire for sure!
Sandra L. February 11, 2021
WOW! My new winter favorite! Much richer and creamier and soul-satisfying than the ingredients suggest. Normally not a big collards fan, but they are awesome in this. In fact, I double the collards and halve the pasta for an equally delicious, but healthier feeling dish. Have shared the recipe and everyone loves it. Sohla rocks!
Rochelle February 3, 2021
This is the "Bianco" version of Pasta con Ceci with the healthy addition of greens and if I hadn't insisted on cooking my beans from scratch would be a quick weeknight dinner. I used 2 heads of escarole and could have used more. Absolutely delicious. Love Sohla.
Judy A. February 2, 2021
I absolutely love this recipe. Used collards for the first time in my life. The whole family thought it was a hit and now that I know the process, making it is a cinch.
I adore Sohlas shows, she hasn’t let me down yet with any of her recipes!!
skylarmarz January 26, 2021
So good, so easy, so comforting. This is on repeat in my house and has made its way into our "rotation" of our favorite recipes.