By Erin Walgamuth
I make a pasta dish of some sort at least once a week. This particular recipe is very versatile; you can serve it with vegetables only or add a protein of your choice. I will sauté shrimp in a bit of olive oil and garlic, or slice some pre-cooked chicken sausages to add to the mix. I love collard greens, but my guess is that most people don't cook with them. The greens are high in potassium, calcium, and folate among other good-for-you vitamins. The taste is somewhere between broccoli and cabbage. When you add tomatoes, garlic and onions this recipe really packs a nutritious wallop. This dish started out as sautéed collard green with pasta and parmesan cheese, but over time has morphed into the recipe below.
Collard Greens and Tomato Sauce with Niman Ranch Bacon
You will need a pot to cook greens and pasta in as well as a medium sauté pan with lid and another medium sauté pan for bacon, onions and tomatoes.
½ pound of Collard Greens*
5 ripe Roma tomatoes**
1 ½ to 1 ¾ cups of thinly sliced sweet brown onion. I use a small onion
3 cloves of garlic, skins and stem end removed
2 heaping tablespoons of fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced then chopped into small pieces
Salt to taste***
1 tablespoon, plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
4 slices Niman Ranch Bacon cooked crisp. I buy this at Trader Joe's
1/3 cup to ½ cup of chicken broth
¼ cup walnut pieces
¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
Enough pasta for 4
* I like to use Cut N Clean Collard greens. You can find this pre-sliced, pre-washed, 1pound bag of greens at Wal-Mart. If you can't find Cut N Clean, buy collard greens, wash thoroughly, remove stems and cut into thick slices.
** I cut my tomatoes in half length wise and then cut each half into a medium dice.
*** I will give the salt amounts that I use, but you can add more or less depending on your taste.
Cook the bacon, drain and place on a plate with a paper towel to absorb excess grease, let cool. When bacon has cooled completely chop coarsely, set aside. Fill a soup or pasta pot half way with cold water and bring water to a boil. While waiting for the water to boil put 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 2 minced garlic cloves in the medium sauté pan that has a lid, let sit. Chop tomatoes and parsley, slice onions, slice and chop basil, set aside. Measure out ¼ cup walnut pieces, set aside.
When water comes to a boil put collard greens in the water and turn heat down to medium-high, boil gently, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes. While greens are boiling, turn heat on to medium-low under pan with oil and garlic. Stir garlic for 1 minute, turn off heat and let rest. When
Greens are done, drain and add them to the oil and garlic mixture, add ¼ teaspoon salt if desired. Turn heat on to medium and stir with a wooden spoon until garlic, oil and greens are well incorporated, turn off heat put lid on pan and let rest.
In the other medium sauté pan, add 1 teaspoon of olive oil and the sliced onions. Add 1/8 teaspoon of salt if desired. Turn heat to medium high and sauté onions until soft and starting to turn golden brown; about 5 minutes. Add cooked onions to greens and stir to incorporate, cover with lid and let rest.
Fill pasta pot with water and bring to a boil.
In same medium pan used for the onion, add 1 teaspoon of olive oil and 1 minced garlic clove. Turn heat to medium-low and stir garlic for 1 minute. Turn heat up to medium add tomatoes, basil and 1/2 teaspoon salt if desired, stir with wooden spoon to incorporate. Cook mixture until tomatoes are soft and falling apart stirring occasionally; about 10 to 15 minutes. Add tomatoes to greens and turn heat to medium. Stir until all ingredients are well incorporated. Add chicken broth, taste, add salt if desired. Sauce will be thick and chunky. Return lid to pan, keep warm until pasta is ready. Warm the bacon in the microwave if you like.
Cook pasta, drain.
Put pasta on plates or in bowls, spoon sauce on top of pasta, sprinkle bacon, walnuts, parmesan and parsley on top of sauce and serve.
This is an Open-to-Interpretation kind of meal, so have fun with it!
Erin Walgamuth  has been an assistant Food Stylist for television and print for the past 26 years and writes this column using her own recipes. Check out her other creations in our Hometown Recipe  section.