Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cheesy baked pasta with collards: a recipe

Cheesy baked pasta with collards
Don't stop reading at the word "collards" -- they are a very misunderstood vegetable.

Being a New Englandah, I had never had collards before I moved to the South. Even then, they generally appeared only at "country cooking" types of restaurants, sickly green and stewed beyond recognition -- um, no thanks.

When a big bunch of collards showed up in one of my first CSA shares in North Carolina, I was at a loss for what to do with them.

Thank god for Google. (What the hell did we do before the internet, I ask you? I don't really remember...)

Here's a list of what I have learned about collards over the past few years:

  1. They are really good raw. I have a recipe for a crunchy collard slaw that I'll share someday, if you are nice.
  2. You don't have to cook the beejesus out of them. Honestly, just please stop the stewing. Generally, I now cook collards for less than half the time that most recipes call for and they are perfect: softened but not nasty.
  3. They are not just a side dish. Really, they are incredibly versatile. Try using them in any recipe you have that calls for kale, cabbage or swiss chard.
If you're still not convinced, try this baked pasta recipe, which balances the goodness of the leafy green collards with the badness of three kinds of cheese.

Cheesy Baked Pasta with Collards (adapted from Sara Foster and Scott Howell's recipe originally printed in Cottage Living)

1 pound multi-grain ziti or penne pasta
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
Drizzle of olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound collard greens (wash well, remove coarse stems and chop -- kale is a fine substitute)
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups low-fat milk
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1 cup part-skim or low-fat ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease a 13- x 9-inch baking dish.

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Heat butter and oil in a large pot. Sauté onion 5 minutes or until just brown. Add garlic, and cook about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low, and add collards; cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes (greens should be slightly tender).

Sprinkle greens with flour. Cook uncovered, stirring constantly, for one minute. Add the milk, stirring well. Cook 5 minutes, stirring often, until thickened and smooth. Remove from heat; stir in cooked pasta, mozzarella, and next 5 ingredients. Place into prepared baking dish and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 350° for about 20 minutes.


  1. I am feeling the need to make this RIGHT NOW! Unfortunately, I'm at work and I can't get collards in Norway...

  2. Really, you could substitute any greens that might be more readily available. Give it a try!

  3. Made this wish my CSA greens - SO YUMMY, and pretty darn easy! Thanks!