Orecchiette With Bacony Collards & Cannellini Beans

May 18, 2021
35 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.

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

57 Reviews

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.
ellenglight January 16, 2021
Saw the YouTube video and had to try this. It is one of the most flavorful dishes I’ve eaten! The noodles ended up tasting almost like dumplings and the broth was really thick and creamy. Definitely going to make this regularly.
KatieM January 1, 2021
Is it a soup? Is it pasta with sauce? Whatever it is, it is great! Make sure all the bacon pieces get crispy. Can't wait to make again.
jennhill December 30, 2020
Delicious! I made this pretty much as written and it worked perfectly. I love the pasta soaking trick. Love the new show as well, Sohla. :)
jennhill December 30, 2020
Delicious! I made this pretty much as written and it worked perfectly. I love the pasta soaking trick. Love the new show as well, Sohla. :)
Dana S. December 21, 2020
I have one complaint and ONLY one complaint about this recipe...And it’s that four slices of bacon is not enough because by the time you finish cooking you’ve hungrily snacked on most of it! Just make the whole pack of bacon and reserve some of the fat for later - believe me. This recipe is incredible, I make it about twice a week now!
Josh D. December 17, 2020
I tried doing this with chickpea pasta, which was sort of an obvious mistake: chickpea pasta doesn't hold up nearly as well and it basically turned into starchy mush by the end. On the plus side, the end result wasn't all that bad: the mush basically thickened the liquid (I used homemade pork stock) even more, so what I ended up with was more of a creamy greans and beans (here, kale and lentils) soup. Others are right: it's really hard to screw this up.
Violetaflow3 December 16, 2020
I am obsessed with this recipe. I'm waiting for my third pot to finish. Corn bread completes the meal in my house. Oh, it can be curried, too. There is no way to mess it up. It just started snowing...
Violetaflow3 December 16, 2020
I am obsessed with this recipe. I'm waiting for my third pot to finish. Corn bread completes the meal in my house. Oh, it can be curried, too.
mward47 December 7, 2020
I've made this 3 times now. It is perfect for this season! I make it vegan - I use Violife's veg parm and I made Shiitake bacon for the first time to go in this (Mississippi vegans recipe). The rest of my non vegan family loved it! I just need to figure out how to make it gluten free too and this might be a go-to for all future family meals.
Bklynbookgrrl December 6, 2020
A big hit! I am always looking for recipes to entice my husband who doesn't love the 'bitter greens' (I adore them!) and this went over very well. I was a little short on collards (4 c) and used whole wheat casarecce as I had that in the pantry. I also made cannelloni beans in the pressure cooker, and that gave them a bit of a tooth-ier texture. I will definitely make this again. Loved reading everyone's variations which will be good to keep in mind moving forward. Thank you Sohla for this wonderful recipe.
Chotu December 5, 2020
So good! Made it as written but added some Parmesan rinds when cooking the collards. Definitely going into regular rotation.