- Cullman, Alabama


April 30, 2013

FOOD: The versatile side of mustard greens

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.

Orecchiette With Mustard Greens

4 servings

The original version of this recipe called for blanching the greens in the boiling water. But if you prefer your greens to keep a little of their spicy bite, sauteing them is the way to go. Adapted from "50 Best Plants on the Planet," by Cathy Thomas and Melissa's Produce (Chronicle Books, 2013).


Kosher or sea salt

8 ounces dried orecchiette pasta

2 pounds mustard greens

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 large garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts (see NOTE)

Freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup grated or shaved pecorino-Romano cheese, for garnish

Text Only