Healthy Ingredient of the Week – Escarole

In the past year, I’ve been on a quest to try as many new types of whole grains as possible.  Since I’ve pretty much worked my way down the list of whole grains I haven’t eaten before, I thought I’d give myself a new challenge to try new types of leafy greens.  Up until I started making my own salad dressing several months ago, I was not a big fan of salad in general.  I’ve since become sold on the idea of eating salads on a regular basis, and I actually now enjoy the taste of anything green and leafy.  Escarole, the latest salad star to make its way into my diet, came courtesy of my grandmother, who, like any good Italian, grows it in her garden.  Escarole has a slightly peppery taste and is prized for its versatility, as it can be consumed raw or cooked.  Either way you slice (or cook) it, escarole is highly nutritious – it’s an excellent source of fiber, folic acid, and Vitamins A and K.

Penne with Escarole

Ingredients
1 pound whole wheat penne pasta
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 medium onions, cut into small dice (about 2 cups)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into medium dice (about 1 cup)
1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
1 bunch escarole, rinsed, stemmed, and torn into bite-size pieces (about 8 cups)
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper

Instructions
1.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the penne and cook until just tender, about 11 minutes.
2. Drain the pasta in a colander, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water, and set aside.
3.  While the water is heating and the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a 14-inch saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions, bell pepper, and black pepper, and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 4 minutes.
4. Add the garlic and escarole, and cook for 5 minutes longer.
5.  Add the cooked pasta and the reserved cooking water, and stir gently to combine. Simmer just until everything is heated through, about 2 minutes.
6.  Transfer the mixture to a large serving bowl. Add the cheese and crushed red pepper, and toss to combine. Drizzle with the extra-virgin olive oil, and serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from Cooking Channel

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