I adapted tonight's dinner from a recipe in the November 2009 Canadian Living Magazine. They used sausage--I used meatballs. They used diced tomatoes and seasonings--I opened a can of spaghetti sauce. They used rigatoni--I used penne. Does it even resemble the original? I think we got the general idea of it. And it did use up some of the Swiss chard that's still very, very healthy in our garden--even with frost on the grass this morning. I liked the way the chard turned out in this--it had a different, less overcooked texture from the way we use it in lasagna (pre-steamed and mashed up with cottage cheese).
We ate it with baked sweet potatoes--orange is always good with green. I made lots on purpose so that we'd have leftovers. You could cut these amounts in half.
Pasta, Meatballs and Swiss Chard
8 to 10 cups washed and chopped Swiss chard, as fresh as possible
A few fresh mushrooms
1 680-ml can pasta sauce (I used Primo Original Recipe)
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese (or a combination)
Meatballs prepared from whatever recipe you like (I used about 1 1/3 lb. ground beef, and added lots of parsley but not too much extra seasoning)
1 lb. penne (tubes) or other similar pasta
A spoonful of butter, margarine or oil (optional)
Prepare your meatballs and bake or brown them, whatever you usually do to them. (I baked them on foil at 400 degrees.)
Cook the pasta until pretty much done, still slightly firm. Drain off most of the water, leaving a bit behind. Put the pasta back into the pot and combine with the can of sauce, the chopped (uncooked) chard and mushrooms, and the cooked meatballs, OR leave the meatballs out at this point. Spoon everything into a large greased pan or two; I used two large lidded casseroles, spooned the mixture in, and then added the meatballs on top. Cover with grated cheese. Bake, covered, for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees and then 10 minutes uncovered, till everything is heated through; or longer if you are starting with cold ingredients or you have it all in one pan. When I took the casseroles out, I spread a spoonful of butter over the top of each one, just because the beef was very lean, I didn't use a lot of sauce, and some of the chard around the edges looked a bit dry. It probably wasn't necessary but I thought it looked better with a bit of moistening. If you used sausage as originally recommended, or used a bit more sauce, you probably wouldn't need to do that.
The five of us finished off one of the casseroles, so I would guess that this amount should serve 8 to 10 people. You could increase the amount of pasta sauce, even double it if you like things very tomatoey; some of the Squirrels here are sensitive to tomatoes, so we preferred it with less, and I think it allowed the flavour of the chard to come out well (it didn't get drowned in tomatoes).
You could make this in a slow cooker, although if you have only a 3 1/2 quart pot as we do, you'd probably only be able to fit half the recipe in it.
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