Whole-wheat pasta redeemed with chard and cheese
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No matter how unimpeachable whole-wheat pasta is in terms of nutritional cred, I've always found it off-putting.

Sure, it has more fiber and whole-grain nutrition. But it always struck me as rather spineless and dull. And as someone whose culinary credo is that food can be scrumptious and healthy, I wasn't about to eat whole-wheat pasta for its nutritional benefits alone.

Happily, several brands recently have developed very respectable lines of 100 percent whole-wheat pasta. If you haven't lately, you might want to taste a few of them to decide which is your favorite.

Once you've settled on a winner, cook it the way I suggest in this recipe, which is to finish cooking the pasta in the sauce. This produces a more flavorful dish than the more traditional method — cooking the sauce and pasta separately, then combining them only at the last minute. Plenty tasty, but the flavors never marry. —

Whole wheat penne with spring greens and sausage

If you have trouble finding Swiss chard, substitute spinach. Discard any tough stems and use the leaves as directed.

8 ounces whole-wheat penne

1 pound Swiss chard

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 ounces chicken sausages, halved lengthwise, then sliced 1/2-inch-thick crosswise

1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

Kosher salt

15-ounce can (about 1 3/4 cups) chopped tomatoes, preferably fire roasted

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

1 1/2 ounces grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for a few minutes less than the recommended time on the box.

Meanwhile, cut off and reserve the Swiss chard stems. Chop Swiss chard leaves coarsely. Cut the stems into 1/2-inch lengths.

In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the sausages and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, or until lightly browned. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sausages to a bowl.

Return the skillet to medium heat and add onion. Cook until golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add Swiss chard stems to the skillet, cover and cook for 3 minutes. Remove the lid and add half the Swiss chard greens. Stir and cook, stirring occasionally, until the greens are slightly wilted. Add the remaining greens, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until completely wilted. Add the tomatoes, a hefty pinch of salt and the red pepper flakes, if using.

When the pasta is almost done but not quite al dente, drain it, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Add the pasta and 3/4 cup of the cooking liquid to the skillet and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, adding more cooking liquid if necessary, until the pasta is al dente and most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the sausages, then season with salt. Divide mixture among 4 shallow bowls and top each portion with some of the cheese.

Servings • 4

Source: Associated Press