This recipe hails from Maremma, a part of Tuscany, and a version of this recipe was first featured in Lidia’s Italy. Swiss chard is usually sold in a bunch tied around the stalks; look for young tender, bright green leaves and thin stalks. In this recipe cooked with cannellini beans, it can be a complete meal. A favorite in Tuscany and at our house, this dish is delicious when served with grilled meats. (I love grilled sausages with it.) This dish is good just off the stove, but it gets better when it rests a bit and is reheated. It will keep in the refrigerator for a few days and also freezes very well.
- ½ pound dried cannellini beans or 3 cups canned cannellini, drained and rinsed
- 2 pounds or more, big unblemished Swiss chard leaves
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or more to taste
- 4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 cup canned Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, crushed by hand
- ½ teaspoon peperoncino or to taste
- 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt or to taste
Rinse the beans and put them in a bowl with cold water to cover by at least 4 inches. Let soak in a cool place for 8 hours or overnight. Drain the beans and transfer them to a large saucepan with fresh cold water to cover by a few inches. Bring to a boil, partially covered, and cook the beans about 40 minutes, until tender but not mushy. Turn off the heat, and stir in ½ teaspoon salt, then let the beans cool to absorb the cooking liquid and seasonings. Taste and adjust the salt if needed.
Bring 6 quarts of water to the boil in the stock pot. Meanwhile, clean the Swiss chard leaves and cut off the stems at the base of the leafy part. Slice the leaves crosswise every 2-inches or so, into long strips. When the water is boiling, drop in all the sliced chard at once. Bring the water back to the boil and cook the chard, covered, for about 15 minutes until thoroughly tender—check a piece with a thick middle vein to be sure. Drain the cooked chard well in a colander. Drain the cannellini.
Heat ¼ cup of the olive oil and the sliced garlic in the skillet over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the garlic is sizzling, about 2 minutes. Drop the spoonful of tomato paste into a clear spot in the pan, stir and toast it for a minute. Toast the peperoncino in a hot spot too, then pour in the crushed tomatoes and stir everything together. Bring the tomatoes to a boil and spill in the beans. Stir, season well with salt, and heat the beans rapidly, stirring constantly. When they’re simmering, stir in the chard and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook rapidly for a couple of minutes to reduce the liquid, tossing the beans and greens over and over. As the juices thicken, drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil all over, toss it in with the vegetables, and simmer for another 2 or 3 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated.
Serve right away or set aside the skillet, covered, and reheat later.