Photo: Marcus Nilsson
A favorite in Tuscany and at our house, this dish is also delicious served with grilled meats. (I love grilled sausages with it.) It 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.
Note: Swiss chard is usually sold in a bunch tied around the stalks; look for young, tender bright-green leaves and thin stalks.
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 1/2 teaspoon salt; let the beans cool to absorb the cooking liquid and seasoning. Taste, and adjust the salt if needed.
Bring 6 quarts of water to the boil in a stockpot. Meanwhile, clean the Swiss chard leaves and cut off the stems and save them for a soup. 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 1/4 cup of the olive oil and the sliced garlic in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the garlic is sizzling, about 2 minutes. Drop the tomato paste into a clear spot in the pan, and stir and toast it for a minute. Toast the red pepper flakes in a cleared 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 with salt, and bring back to simmer, stirring occasionally. 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.
Excerpted from Lidia's Favorite Recipes by Lidia Bastianich. Copyright © 2012 by Tutti a Tavola, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Published on December 08, 2012