In this sauce, the greens are cooked separately from the sauce and added at the end with the pasta. I like this method, even though it goes against my philosophy of the least number of pots and pans required to cook a meal, because the greens remain vibrant and, well, green, with some bite, and not washed out and stringy. However, if you want to just add the raw greens to the tomato sauce, by all means go ahead. Remember that collards will take longer than spinach to cook and will need to be added earlier in the recipe. Spinach can go in just towards the end of the cooking time.
8 – 10 c collards, washed, stemmed, chopped (chiffonade)
vegetable oil, as needed
4 slices bacon and/or 1/2 lb ground meat; or vegetarian alternative (optional)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 t crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
4 c (canned) tomatoes, undrained if canned
1/2 c water or broth
salt and pepper, to taste
12 oz – 1 lb paste
grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, for serving
1. Cook collards or other greens according to your preference. Sauté, using some oil; steam, or boil in salted water. If using this later method, cook the stemmed leaves whole, then remove with tongs, and chop when cool. This way you can use the collard cooking water for the pasta. If cooking greens in the tomato sauce, then put on a large pot of water to cook the pasta.
2. Cook bacon and/or meat until bacon is not quite crisp and the meat is no longer pink. If there’s a lot of fat, you may want to drain some off. Heat through the vegetarian alternative. You may need to use some more oil for this step. If foregoing protein, just heat some oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes and water or broth. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the sauce has thickened, 15- 20 minutes. If you’re cooking the raw greens in the tomatoes, add whenever you want. Add some salt and pepper, but first check the salt content of the tomatoes if they were store-bought, as the sodium content can be quite high.
3. When the water for the pasta is boiling and the sauce is near-done, cook the pasta according to package directions or your personal preference. Drain, reserving some of the pasta cooking water.
4. Add the cooked greens from Step 1 to the tomato sauce, stirring to combine. Now, you can add the pasta to the skillet as well, if it’s large enough, or you can transfer the pasta to a serving bowl and add the tomato sauce with greens to the bowl, tossing to combine. If the mixture seems dry, add a splash or two of cooking water. Sprinkle with grated cheese.
5. Serve, with additional cheese on the side.