Perfetto Primavera

29 May

Has Lidia ever changed your dinner plans?

The Harbor Meets The Hudson

She’s a dangerous lady to watch when you’ve only got tentative dinner plans, trust me. That’s just the situation I found myself in on Sunday. Earlier in the day I had gone for a really long run, and then Isaac and I had gone on a not so long walk, but either way, I was sore, and tired, and felt that I had earned a kip on the couch.


But there was Lidia, back in Maremma, my favorite place in Italy, and dastardly lady that she is, she was making pasta with ceci and spinach, my favorite food in the world (pasta) combined with my favorite legume (chickpeas). And then, right after that, she made swiss chard with magic Tuscan beans. It was too much. Our dinner plans had to change.


I peeled myself off the couch and trotted off to the Korean bodega a few blocks away. I grabbed chard, and since I am often indecisive (and greedy) a can of ceci and a can of canellini beans, because, even as I was watching the show, the two separate recipes were combining into one.


We ate a lot of Italian food this weekend. We had been hoping to get away for the holiday, but for a number of reasons, that didn’t happen. So, we stuck around and indulged in the relative quietude the city sometimes offers on this first weekend of “summer.”

Tom Otterness Tableau

We went to Hearth for dinner on Saturday night for no reason other than we could. Wait, that’s not 100% true. We went to Hearth on Saturday night because the food is awesome and we could score a perfect reservation with no trouble. Our meal gave me a new faith in sauces and dressings. And then we breakfasted on the antipasti platter and a perfect pizza on Sunday at Adrienne‘s. And then on Monday night I whipped up my own “pizza” to go with a delightful salad (hopefully more on that pizza another time, because it was awesome).

V. Ponte & Sons

And even after all that, I still think this pasta was the highlight of the weekend’s eats. It’s such an earthy, honest and goshdarnit, delicious dinner. Oh, and it’s easy and quick to make, too.

Umberto Brothers Storage

This recipe is perfect for busy moms with too many nearly grown men nipping at her heels, hounding her about dinner. It’s also perfect for the newbie entertainer that’s having his first dinner party and wants to impress the ladies but is afraid of messing up an expensive cut of meat. And, it’s perfect for a couple like me and Isaac that treasures delicious leftovers as the only way to survive our too busy weeks.

Perfect Pasta with Beans & Greens

What I hope you take away from this is that this is a perfect dinner. Pour yourself a glass of crisp white wine, whip up a green garlic salad dressing to serve over the tiniest, most dainty spring greens and sit down with this pasta for a perfect evening. Enjoy!

Head below the jump for the recipe for Perfect Pasta with Beans & Greens.

Perfect Pasta with Beans & Greens

prep time: 10 minutes ~ cooking time: 15 minutes

  • 2 lbs Swiss Chard
  • Water
  • 1 box dried Pasta, Gemelli or Cavatappi
  • 1 or 2 pieces of Bacon, cut into lardons
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 large Onion, sliced
  • 6-8 cloves Garlic, chopped
  • 1 can Garbanzo Beans, rinsed
  • 1 can Cannellini Beans, rinsed
  • 1 Tomato, sliced
  • Chile Flakes
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Grated Cheese, preferably Pecorino or Locatelli

Start a very large pot of water to boil over high heat. Cut the chard into bite sized pieces and wash well.

When the water is acting like it might boil soon, add a large glug of olive oil to a large sautée pan over medium-high heat and add the bacon. Cook the bacon until it becomes crispy then add the onion and the garlic. Stir to coat in the fat and cook until the onions are becoming golden brown.

While the onions are cooking, add the chard to the pot of boiling water and cook a few minutes until tender. Turn off the heat. Fish the chard out with a spider or slotted spoon into a colander placed in a large bowl. Move the bowl and colander to the sink and run very cold water over the greens to stop the cooking.

Add the beans, sliced tomato and chile flakes (to tase) to the onions and toss to coat in the oil. Season with salt & pepper.

Turn the heat back on under the chard water and add a big pinch of salt. Return to the boil. Once boiling, add the pasta and stir.

A few minutes into the cooking time, add the chard to the beans, toss to coat, then add a few spoons of the pasta/chard water to the sauce. Spoon the water into the middle of the pan, and when you see it reach the edges, you’ve added enough (how many spoonfuls it is depends on the size of your spoon).

When the pasta is cooked (al dente please), drain it. Serve the sauce over the pasta with lots and lots of cheese and a drizzle of good olive oil. Enjoy!

Cook’s Note: This makes enough for six people, or enough for two for dinner, plus leftovers good for two additional after-work dinners.


16 Responses to “Perfetto Primavera”

  1. Jean May 29, 2008 at 7:26 am #

    Another winning entry. You are so fortunate to live in such a diverse city. Your photos are captivating.

  2. safariafrika May 29, 2008 at 7:49 am #

    way cool I’ll be reading this ol day

  3. michelle May 29, 2008 at 12:10 pm #

    oh, lidia.


  4. Julie May 29, 2008 at 12:15 pm #

    I don’t know if she’s ever made me change my dinner plans but she’s definitely influenced them on more than one occasion. I find Lidia inspirational.

    I’ve never made a pasta/bean combination dish though. Or a pasta/potato combination dish. For some reason, I’ve been unadventurous and shied away from the starch with starch concept. One of these days I’ll have to try it.

    Like the pictures, especially the buildings with the company names painted on them.

  5. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) May 29, 2008 at 1:59 pm #

    Oh, that Lidia — she can really cook. And she makes it look so easy.

  6. Sandie (Inn Cuisine) May 29, 2008 at 4:01 pm #

    I can’t say that Lidia has changed my plans, but lack of a babysitter has.

    Lidia has restaurant (by the same name of course) right here in Kansas City that I’ve been wanting to try, sans kids. Now, if I just had that sitter available….

  7. izzy's mama May 29, 2008 at 10:08 pm #

    That looks like a perfect use for some of my future swiss chard this season. I am also glad to see I won an argument with Izzy’s papa, who always insists that beans don’t belong in pasta. He tells me its not Italian. He is a big Lidia fan so this might just change his mind.

  8. bloglily May 30, 2008 at 12:11 pm #

    I love coming over here and finding exactly what I need — something good to make this weekend, and that beautiful photo of the warehouse with the lamp. Thank you.

  9. daisy from downunder May 31, 2008 at 12:39 am #

    Great post;love the photos,and yes you have changed my mind about dinner tonite was having chicken wings and greens,now having pasta with spinage and beans thru it yummy,can,t wait,and its great eating weather here in Adelaide Australia ,the nights are becoming really cold just perfect to enjoy a glass or two of Cab Sav,and beautiful food,cheers!

  10. ann May 31, 2008 at 8:12 am #

    Jean — Thanks. It’s good to hear a reminder every now and then about how awesome NYC is :-)

    safariafrika — Thank you!

    Ulla – Ugh! I deleted your comment by mistake. Sorry!!

    Michelle — Not nearly as good as your smoked meat… but possibly close. Naaaaah. ;-)

    Julie — Every time I take a picture of an old, painted advertisement, I think of you, because I know when I post it, you’re going to love it :-) Anywho… Beans with pasta is strange, the beans suddenly become less beany. Their starch becomes less evident next to the pasta and they become more vegetal. It’s incredibly delicious. I hope if you try it you’ll love it. Now pasta and potatoes… That I’m not sure about!!

    Lydia — She does! I bet it helps that she doesn’t have to do her own dishes ;-) She uses so many different pots!

    Sandie — She has a restaurant in KC? Well I’ll be! I had no idea. I got invited to a special dinner at her resto here in NYC once, for the introduction of a new Sicilian cheese. She was there, and boy is she gracious and welcoming and delightful and smart and funny. I basically fell in love. She’s wonderful. And much prettier in person than on camera. And boy can she (or her executive chef) cook! I bet you could rope someone into babysitting, no?

    Izzy’s Mama — HA! That’s funny! Where does this beans/pasta conviction come from? You’re so lucky you have future swiss chard! How exciting!

    Lily — Anything for you!! ;-)

    Daisy — Oh, I do hope you like it! It would be perfect with a rich, fruity, hearty Cab Sav too! It’s so neat thinking about how its a completely different season “downunder.” I’m glad I pulled an recipe appropriate for all season out of my hat :-)

  11. Mary Coleman May 31, 2008 at 2:21 pm #

    Big fat yum!!!

  12. Ann June 1, 2008 at 5:21 am #


    We did not see one single pasta dish on any menu worth ordering from the time we left California to the time we arrived in New England. We saw spaghetti, but it wasn’t really pasta, if you know what I mean. Do you have some left-overs for me?

  13. Sarah June 2, 2008 at 4:02 pm #

    I love the sound of this, and I am a sucker for chickpeas! Thanks for another fabulous post with such a relatable story (I too, need leftovers in order to get through the week) and pretty, pretty pictures. I heart your blog big time.

  14. ann June 3, 2008 at 6:55 am #

    Mary — Hehe, I agree completely :-)

    Ann — Yeah, I’ve noticed that before too, out there in the middle of the continent. Outside of Olive Garden, you’re sol. I’m glad you guys had fun, your pictures are great! Thanks for taking us along. Sorry I don’t have any leftovers to reward you with ;-)

    Sarah — Awh! Wow! Thanks! I’ve hearted yours for awhile too, I just never leave comments. I’m uber-flattered! I’m glad to meet another chickpea fan. Isaac and are lunatics for them :-)

  15. shelley June 5, 2008 at 7:46 am #

    Great story, I think we’ve all been seduced by Lidia, or one of her compatriots, at one time or another.

    Can I say that it’s truly wonderful that you’re frying bacon in a splash of olive oil! Love it!

  16. ann June 6, 2008 at 5:22 am #

    Shelley — Uhm… Is there any other way to cook bacon? ;-)

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