Pasta, Ceci e Cicoria

This dish is built around those dandelion stems that I saved when making my dandelion salad the other day.  Like spinach, the stems on dandelion greens are worth saving and savoring.  They are bitter, but when boiled and sauteed, have a unique earthy flavor.

The other ingredient that gave me inspiration was this meaty, Irish slab bacon that I buy at Citarella, my local gourmet market.

This bacon adds a smokey, meatiness to any dish.  Cubed and sauteed with any leafy green vegetable, it’s spectacular.

Chick peas are especially good with smokey bacon, as well as with bitter greens, so they are a natural in this dish.  The pasta acts as the diffuser of all of these strong flavors and brings them together in just the right measure.

I’ve added a healthy dose of chili flakes to give the dish some southern Italian heat.  Black pepper is also good on this dish.  I’ve chosen to use both.

I like this dish on the soupy side, so I add a cup of chicken broth and serve the dish with soup spoons.   It’s a hearty dish that can easily serve as a one-pot meal (so you won’t have to feel guilty about taking seconds).

Pasta, Ceci e Cicoria

serves 4

1 lb orrechiette

stems from 1 bunch dandelion greens, cut into 2″ lengths

1 medium shallot

1/4 c olive oil + 2 tbls for drizzling

1/4 lb slab bacon, cubed

1 15-oz. can chick peas, drained

2 small sprigs fresh rosemary

1 c chicken broth

salt and pepper to taste

chili flakes for sprinkling

grated pecorino romano for sprinkling

Drop stems into boiling salted water and boil for 10 minutes, until soft.

Drain and set aside.  In the same water, boil pasta.

While pasta cooks, in a large saute pan on low heat, render bacon for about 3 – 4 minutes.  Raise heat to medium-high and add shallots. Saute for another 2 minutes.

Add dandelion stems and rosemary and saute for about 3 – 4 minutes.

Add chick peas and continue sauteing for another minute.  Taste and add salt.

Add broth and allow to simmer until pasta is cooked.

When pasta is done, add to skillet and cook on high heat to incorporate.

Drizzle with additional olive oil and sprinkle with chili flakes.

Serve sprinkled with plenty of grated pecorino romano.

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