Fettuccine with Bacon, Beet Greens and Capers

Fettuccine with Bacon, Beet Greens and Capers
 

When I was younger, I never understood why some things were eaten, and some things were supposed to be thrown away. The ends of broccoli tasted fine. Parsley and cilantro stems had just as much flavor as the leaves. And there were the tops of beets. They looked pretty similar to chard, which is loved as a healthy vegetable. I needed to investigate.

Sometimes as home cooks, we just follow what the fancy chef with an unlimited budget tells us on TV. We also cut the turkey legs off every time we roast it because great great great great g-ma did it that way. They forgot to pass down the detail that g-ma's oven was tiny and there just wasn't room!

I love these ingredients because they are earthy. I can only compare it to a fall day, which is why I love to eat it when the leaves are changing color. Here they are: Fettuccine, bacon, beet greens, shallots, capers, a garlic clove, bay leaf, Parmesan cheese, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

This might look like a lot, but the greens will wilt down quite a bit. They are also nutritious, so load up! Side note: of course I'm not throwing away the delicious root! They deserve their own blog post :) 

Start getting everything ready by slicing the shallots to about a 1/4 inch pieces. Smash the garlic, but leave it as a whole so it's easier to fish out at the end. Now, I'm a lover of garlic but sometimes other ingredients need room to shine too. Plus I promised my taste buds I would cool it with all the garlic ... and Sriracha ... once in awhile.

Chop the beet greens to about 1 inch pieces. The stems bring another texture, so add them instead of tossing them away.

Do a rough chop on the green tops to about a 1 inch as well.

Throw the pasta in when the salted water is boiling. Adding salt is important to give the pasta more flavor. Try it with and without some time and you'll see the difference. A heads up that you'll be putting the al dente pasta straight into the "sauce", so you'll want to time it so it's not over or under cooked.

Get that bacon cooked while the water is heating up for the pasta, about 4 minutes each side. Do this on a medium heat.

Drain the bacon on paper towels, and reserve some of the drippings in the pan to flavor the rest of the ingredients.

Toss the shallots, crushed garlic clove and bay leaf into the pan. The bay leaf is one of the subtle layers that makes this dish taste like Autumn on a plate. Saute this until the shallots soften, about 4 minutes.

Time for the greens! Add some pepper and salt so the flavors can start building on each other. Add more at the end if you want more when you taste it. 

Pour in about two ladles full, or 1/2 cup, of liquid the pasta was cooking in. This helps to make a little bit of a sauce. It's magical.

Turn the heat up to medium high, and toss everything around so the ingredients can incorporate with each other. Look at how much the greens wilted already!

It'll take about 5 minutes to get the sauce we're looking for, not too runny and not too dry.

Fish out the bay leaf and garlic clove.

Chop the bacon to about 1/2 inch pieces. These will crumble on top, so that you don't loose them in the bottom of the pasta.

It's time for the capers! These salty, briny little jewels help this dish from getting too murky. Cook an additional minute.

Throw the pasta straight into the pan. Honestly, I never time this perfectly, so I always tell myself the pasta needs to be done sooner than it does, and it just works itself out. :)

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Turn off the heat and add the olive oil.

Toss everything together so that the noodles are coated and other ingredients are evenly spread out.

Serve this up with the bacon and Parmesan cheese. And some Cabernet Sauvignon in a glass of course. The cheese is an important ingredient to tie everything together, so add it generously.

As you and your loved ones are eating this, think of some more ingredients that could be enjoyed instead of tossed to the side. Bon appetit!

 

Fettuccine with Bacon, Beet Greens and Capers
Makes about 4 servings

Ingredients
1 Pound fettuccine
4 Slices thick cut bacon
Greens from 3 large beets, chopped with stems
2 Small shallots
3 Tablespoons of capers with vinegar brine
1 Garlic clove
1 Bay leaf optional
2/3 Cup Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Steps
1. Get salted water to a boil and cook fettuccine noodles to al dente, cooked firm to the bite. Pasta will be taken out of the water instead of drained. 
2. Chop the green tops off of the beets. Slice stems and leaves to about 1 inch pieces. 
3. Slice shallots to about 1/4 inch pieces and smash the garlic clove. 
4. Fry the bacon in a large pan on medium heat until almost crisp, about 4 minutes each side.
5. Drain the bacon on paper towels, and reserve about 1 tablespoon of drippings in the pan. Cut the crisped bacon into 1/2 inch pieces. 
6. Add shallots, smashed garlic clove and bay leaf to pan for about 4 minutes until slightly softened.
7. Add beet greens, about 1/2 cup of pasta water and salt and pepper. Turn the heat up to medium high, and toss the greens for about 5 minutes, until tender and most of the liquid has evaporated.
8. Throw in the capers and cook additional minute. 
9. Take out the garlic clove and bay leaf.
10. Turn off heat and add the cooked fettuccine from the pasta water and olive oil. Toss everything to to coat the noodles.
11. Transfer the pasta to serving plates and top with bacon and Parmesan cheese.

Tips
- If you need more time to cook the greens, and the pasta is already done, drain and reserve about 1/2 of pasta water.
- Chard, kale and any other tough greens can be substituted for the beet greens.