When I was in grammar school in the 90s at St. Augustine School, the PTA made a family recipe book that I recently picked up to check out again. My dad had submitted this recipe which is very pantry staple heavy as is to be expected as he was inspired by a frequent dish that his mother made in the 40s-50s in the Bronx with 7 kids and a firefighter husband. My dad would make variations of this for us, usually with a pound of pasta thrown in, regularly.
This recipe in particular is great because the only ingredient that is not from pantry staples is the swiss chard which is a vegetable that tends to be left on the shelves, even in times like these because so many people don’t appreciate how wonderful it is. If you can’t find swiss chard you can substitute with any dark leafy greens like beet greens, escarole, even broccoli rabe. To make this vegan simply leave out the chicken broth.
I love looking back at writings from my father, his writing here is much more clear and concise than his oral communications ever were because he would add every detail and go off on tangents in every sentence. When I was little I called him daddy long lecture and he thought it was hilarious, he never stopped talking. The most wonderful thing about him was that he hated small talk, he never made people feel bad about it if that was where they met him, but he always steered the conversation to something more deep and interesting than you could imagine at the start.
I recently made this as a pasta dish (not a soup) with what I had on hand which is the beauty of this recipe. It was so good, even my meat and potatoes husband loved it! So here are a few substitutions that you should be comfortable making that would work in lots of other recipes well.
Tomato products: In my dad’s recipe it calls for 28oz crushed tomatoes, 8oz tomato sauce and 2 oz tomato paste. I planned to sub all of that for a random tomato that I had which I ended up leaving it out b/c it was moldy inside, 8oz of leftover Rao’s Arrabiata sauce that I had in the fridge and tomato paste. Point is, tomato products are very interchangeable so don’t avoid a recipe if you don’t have the exact product that is called for.
Chicken Broth: For a vegan swap you can always use vegetable broth or water.
2lb. Swiss Chard, roughly chopped
2T Olive Oil
1 Large Onion, sliced thin
2-4 Cloves Garlic (follow your heart), sliced thin
2oz. Tomato Paste
4oz. Rao’s Arrabiata (or your favorite sauce + pinch of crushed red pepper)
2-3c Chicken Broth (vegetable broth or water for vegan option)
2T Basil Chiffonade*
1 can Red Kidney Beans rinsed (light or dark or go with Cannellini if that is what you have)
1/2lb Ditalini (or your favorite pasta)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Parmigiano-Reggiano to your heart’s desire
1. Set up salted water in the stock pot and bring to a boil. Heat oil in Sautoir then sauté your onion with a pinch of salt over medium heat until soft. (The salt will prohibit browning of the onion.) Add garlic until fragrant.
2. Meanwhile, par-boil the swiss chard for one minute and leave on the side in colander, reserve cooking water in pot for boiling the pasta.
3. In the sautoir add tomato paste to the onions and cook for a few minutes over medium heat, then add the tomato sauce and chicken broth, cook for 5 minutes. At this point you can drop your pasta if it has 10-12 minute cook time. Add basil and kidney beans to the sauce and cook 5 more minutes. Add Swiss Chard at the end and stir to heat through. Add/adjust broth depending on the consistency you desire.
4. Add the pasta to the sauce when just shy of al dente. Season to taste with salt, pepper and crushed red pepper if desired. Add plenty of Parmigiano-Reggiano to each person’s bowl and enjoy!
*I once worked under an awesome chef who was smart, funny and fantastic to work with. He is Armenian and had trouble pronouncing/remembering my name so he called me Chiffonade (Julienne/Julianne…) and it brightened my day every time!
Let me know if you make this and how you liked it. Happy cooking!