Some of the best Italian recipes are barely recipes at all. Almost every restaurant in Rome serves some sort of greens, ripassata in padella. This means boiling the greens (they are usually chicory, but can also be spinach, Swiss chard, broccoletti or any combination of those), draining them, then re heating the cooked greens, in a pan, with olive oil, garlic and a bit of red pepper.
Couldn’t be better.
Except it can.
There is another way of cooking greens that is not only easier, but (in my humble opinion) even more delicious. Rather than employ the two step process described above (and get two pans dirty!) this other way of cooking greens all takes place in one easy pot.
Heat oil, throw in garlic and red pepper, and a few tomatoes. Then add the chopped greens and a bit of water. Cover and let cook until done.
This way is called stufato, which roughly translates as stewed or smothered. I think this way is better mostly because you’re not losing any of the nutrients (and so taste) into the boiling water. It all gets cooked together. Plus, the addition of a few tomatoes makes the minimal cooking water into a kind of sauce that turns simple greens into so much more.
Yesterday I cooked up a big bunch of Swiss chard this way. Thick white stems and dark green leaves: it all went into the pot with a few canned tomatoes. This, plus some bread and a wedge of cheese was lunch.
I’ll write the recipe for you below. But I feel like I’m cheating a bit. Because it isn’t really very much of a recipe is it?
Like I said, this isn’t much of a recipe. Feel free to play around with any greens you want. And if you don’t like things spicy, don’t add the red pepper. Adding a few anchovies is a nice touch, though. Or anything you want, really. But keep it simple. That’s the brilliant thing about this
1 bunch of Swiss Chard
1 cup canned tomatoes (or a few fresh ones if in season)
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup water
Clean the greens and chop them roughly. Don’t worry about drying them off too well.
Pour olive oil into large saute pan. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Let cook for a minute, then add the tomatoes, and their juices. Let cook for about 10 minutes. Add the greens, and about a tsp of salt. Add the cup of water, cover, and let cook until greens are well done.
This is not about simply wilting the greens. You really want to smother them, so that all the flavors meld together. This chard took about a half hour to cook.
And a lot less to eat.