Pasta with Chard Stems (Penne alle Gambe di Coste)

Chard is not generally available anymore in this country, but recently a new ‘organic’ store opened up near to my house that carries it. I remember my grandmother serving chard (called “snijbiet” in Dutch), but I had never prepared it myself. Now that I can get it, I made Chard Risotto and Pizzoccheri with chard. For both of them I only used the leaves, and so I had a nice bunch of chard stems in the crisper of my fridge, waiting for a purpose. I remember Emmy had posted a recipe for Baked Chard Stems with Tomato, Garlic, and Parmesan, and that was the inspiration for this pasta dish. We love pasta and eat it almost every day. I decided to try making something like ragù from the chard stems, and it worked out great.

The chard provides more texture than flavor, but this rustic dish is a great way to use up chard stems. I included a bit of prosciutto for additional flavor, but you can leave that out for a vegetarian version.


For 3 servings

450 grams (1 lb) chard stems

225 grams (.5 lb) penne rigate or rigatoni

700 grams (1.5 lbs) plum tomatoes, or 1 can (400 grams/14 oz) peeled tomatoes

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 carrot

1 onion

1 celery stick

1 clove garlic

50 grams (2 oz) prosciutto

freshly grated parmigiano reggiano

salt and freshly ground black pepper


Chop the carrot, onion, celery, garlic, and prosciutto very fine.

I am lazy and use the food processor for this.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and add the minced vegetables. Sauté over medium heat until golden, about 5-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, wash and dry the chard stems and cut them into strips about the size of the penne pasta.

Add the chard to the vegetables.

Saute for a few minutes longer.

Meanwhile, wash and dry the tomatoes and put them in the food processor.

Whizz them until pulp.

Put the tomatoes through a food mill to remove most of the seeds and pieces of skin, and add to the chard.

Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer over low heat.

Simmer the sauce, stirring now and then, until has reached a thick consistency and the chard is tender, about 40 minutes.

When the sauce is almost ready, bring a pot of water to a boil, add salt and penne pasta and boil until al dente according to package instructions.

Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce, together with some freshly grated parmigiano.

Toss to mix over low heat.

Serve on warm plates with some more freshly grated parmigiano. You could also add some fresh chopped parsley if you like.

14 thoughts on “Pasta with Chard Stems (Penne alle Gambe di Coste)

  1. Small world! I have just made a frittata with Swiss Chard leaves and was looking for something to do with the stalks. This looks good. They are known as bietole in this part of Italy.


    1. Great! I had someone else ask me whether I meant barbabietole or coste, so it appears that it is indeed not known under the same name everywhere. Thanks for letting me know.


  2. Most Aussies are familiar with silverbeet AKA Swiss Chard. Love your treatment of the stems, I often use stem and leaf in risotto with porcini and pine nuts. it’s a rich and earthy combination. Thanks for sharing


  3. Is there a reason why chard is no longer available, Stefan? Its the opposite here, so it seems. I see it year-round now and take full advantage. This recipe is a good one and I look forward to making it. Thanks, Stefan.


    1. I think it just went out of fashion and was considered to be pig or cattle feed. Organic shops that revive ‘forgotten vegetables’ have been around for a long time, but used to be just marginal. We don’t have something big like Wholefoods (yet), probably because Dutchmen don’t like spending their ‘Whole paycheck’ on food.


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