Yesterday was National Pasta Day and for those of us pasta lovers I’ve mixed up a nice blend of Vermicelli, Red Onion, Swiss Chard, Bacon.
When I was growing up in the sixties the only ‘pasta’ dishes I can remember as being a staple in really anyone’s home included spaghetti and meatballs, special occasion lasagna, sometimes there were stuffed shells, manicotti, and then, of course, there was the timeless macaroni and cheese whose mac also does qualify as pasta.
People generally had a lot more kids back then, not infrequently 4-10 kids per family. Without the pasta options we enjoy today, there is a mixed picture between awe wondering how mothers possibly came up with dinners every single night, and empathy on their sacrifice, including the possibility of having been bored out of their minds essentially preparing meals from limited choice selections over and over and over again on a daily basis.
Pasta craze popularity seemed to sweep the country beginning in the eighties, hot, cold, and room temperature combined with lots of interesting fresh ingredients and or proteins. A broader selection of pasta types gradually became available.
But the creative options and ease of preparation for some became too much of a good thing. Foods need to be eaten in balance and let’s face it, gigantic bowls of plain pasta or with little other fresh ingredients are not meant to be eaten solely as one’s meal every single day.
Today there is a big focus on circling back to the culinary staples of our ancestors, that is, consuming plenty of plant-based vegetables. And we are now enabled lots of creative opportunity tossed between the wisdom of healthy eating. One option is to bulk up fresh seasonal vegetables in combination with any of your pasta favorites. Using red onion and lots of fresh Swiss chard mixed with vermicelli is one example. This gives me plenty of additional reason to appreciate pasta on National Pasta Day and may perhaps be an idea for you too as well as the many pasta lovers among us.
- 16 ounce dried vermicelli (thin spaghetti may alternatively be used)
- 1 1/2 pounds Swiss chard, washed, dried in salad spinner or toweling
- 6 slices thick cut bacon
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, more or less as needed, plus 2 tablespoons
- 1 large red onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- good pinch or two coarse kosher salt
- few grinds fresh cracked black pepper
- grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese for topping
- Place bacon into a large sized nonstick fry pan, cook on medium heat until just crisp, transfer to paper toweling, cool to the touch, chop, set aside.
- Pour out all but 2-3 tablespoons bacon grease from pan, reduce heat to very low, tumble in red onion and cook for five minutes until tender.
- Meanwhile, chop off long bottom stems at the base of the chard leaves, save for another use. Pile and roll up a stack of chard leaves at a time, slice down the center lengthwise then in half, finish chopping leaves a little larger than bite sized.
- Add garlic to pan with onions, cook another minute or two, set in the chard, stir throughout to begin wilting the leaves. If more grease is needed in pan stir through a tablespoon or two of olive oil, continue cooking around five minutes.
- Stir in chopped bacon.
- Meanwhile, cook pasta until el dente, drain, immediately transfer to the pan with the cooked mixture. Pour 2 tablespoons olive oil over the pasta then begin tossing through to blend with the bacon and vegetables, cook another two to three minutes for flavors to blend.
- Sprinkle in the salt and pepper, check seasoning to taste.
- Serve hot from the pan topped with grated cheese.