This recipe for rotini with spring greens—we're talking overwintered leeks, lacinato kale and a modest little bunch of broccoli rabe— really wanted to be titled "the first farmers' market meal of the season." But seriously, who would Google that phrase? It just isn't specific enough for SEO. Yeah, we're looking at those things around here. Just because we can. Not because we're experts. Fancy metrics aside, specificity is key and always will be.
In any case, I made this pasta dish last night lickety split with three different types of fresh green things I bought at the first installment of our outdoor market here in Easton. The trick is to balance your greens with some bacon. Oh, bacon's sweet, salty sharpness just pairs so well with bitter leafy greens. It's like their made for each other. Save the tough ends of leeks and the thick stems of kale and broccoli rabe for veggie crock pot stock.
- 1 12-ounce bag of rotini (or other short, stubby pasta; I used Bionaturae's gluten free rotini)
- 3-4 pieces of your favorite bacon (I had Nueske's—it's a long but delicious story)
- 1 small handful of spring leeks, thinly sliced
- 1 small bunch (about 2 cups) of broccoli rabe, roughly chopped
- About 8 ounces of lacinato/Tuscan kale, roughly chopped
- 1-2 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
While the pasta water boils in a large stockpot, begin your veggie prep. Start the bacon in a cold skillet and cook over medium heat until it gets crispy, foamy and shrinks in size. Remove to paper towels; drain.
Drain off about half of the bacon fat, leaving at least a few tablespoons. Add the sliced leeks and saute over medium heat until they begin to soften, 3-4 minutes. At this point, your pasta water may be ready; add it to salted boiling water and set your timer. Add the broccoli rabe and kale, along with some kosher or sea salt to taste, and continue to gently toss among the leeks and bacon fat until the rabe and kale are both slightly wilted; you don't want to lose all the water. Turn off the heat and wait for your pasta to finish boiling.
With kitchen shears, snip off small pieces of bacon into the saute pan with the greens. Stir together to distribute the bacon. Drain your pasta but don't rinse it if it's gluten free. Return the pasta to the hot pot it was cooked in, add a couple tablespoons of olive oil, toss together. Add the greens and bacon, Combine gently and grate fresh Parmesan cheese over top.
Serves 4 hungry people, two of them growing boys, with no leftovers.