Weeknight Vegetarian: Adding a punch to pasta

April 23, 2013

Like many vegetable lovers, I’ve experienced mustard greens mostly as a salad ingredient. Those pungent little leaves give a nice punch to what can otherwise be as mild as, well, lettuce. But they’re also becoming a favorite ingredient in heartier dishes, especially because they’re available at farmers markets most, if not all, of the year.

That same spicy flavor that sparks up a salad can add life to a quick pasta dish, in which mustard greens perform like a cross between spinach and broccoli rabe, with all the tenderness of the former and the personality of the latter. Orecchiette, that cute ear-shaped pasta, is a perfect choice for this recipe: The sauteed greens — along with shaved pecorino-Romano cheese for a little richness — nestle right in those little cups.

This is my favorite kind of pasta dish, one in which the sauce comes together in about as much time as it takes to boil the pasta. Toss the orecchiette in the same skillet you made the sauce in, use a little reserved cooking water to pull it together, and dinner becomes a flash in the pan.

In a good way, of course.

Joe Yonan is the Food and Travel editor of The Washington Post. He got the cooking bug from his Indiana-born mother who let him use her stand mixer when he was 8 years old because it was cool.
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