Dandelion Greens

Agata says:

Dandelion greens have a sharp flavor and, in Springtime, a very silky texture, which is a combination Italians adore. They mostly enjoy it raw in salads.

Those who prefer to tame the bitter flavor a bit will enjoy this pasta preparation. We wilt the dandelion leaves in a little garlic-and-pancetta flavored olive oil, then combine them with cooked Navy beans and penne.

This pasta preparation is quite thick, but the bright assertive flavor of dandelion greens gives it a fresh, lively feel.

Penne with Dandelion Greens, White Beans & Pancetta

Ingredients

1 cup dried navy beans, pre-soaked overnight in cold water to cover
3 cups cold water
1 bay leaf
½ large sweet onion, peeled
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
3 bunches dandelion greens (young dandelion, if making dish in Springtime)
2 tbs. Agata & Valentina Sicilian extra virgin olive oil
8-12 pancetta slices, diced
5 garlic cloves, crushed
1 pound dry egg pasta in a short cut, like penne
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Directions

1. Drain beans and cover with the fresh cold water in a pot. Add bay leaf and onion to the pot. Bring to a boil over high heat then reduce heat to medium/low and simmer uncovered for about an hour, or until beans collapse against the roof of your mouth when you taste them. Sprinkle thyme in and stir. (The liquid should be thick enough to use as a sauce; if still too watery, increase heat slightly and continue cooking, monitoring closely, until more water has evaporated). When desired consistency is reached, turn off heat and set aside. Season cooked beans with salt and pepper.
2. Remove tough part of dandelion stems and cut leaves in half. Blanche dandelion greens in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water until ribs are tender, 4 to 5 minutes (less if using youg, spring dandelion), then drain in a colander. Rinse under cold water to stop cooking and drain well, gently pressing out excess water.
3. Heat olive in large skillet over medium/low heat. Add diced pancetta, stirring occasionally, and cook until almost crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove pancetta and reserve on paper toweling to drain, and add garlic to the same oil in skillet. Cook until garlic starts to color, and then add dandelion greens. Sauté 2-3 minutes until greens completely wilt. Turn off heat and set aside.
4. Cook penne in large pot of boiling salted water. Drain and add to pot with beans. Add cooked dandelion, including oil and garlic. Toss gently and turn into large serving bowl. Sprinkle with reserved pancetta and serve.
Serves 6