Orecchiette With Bacony Collards & Cannellini Beans
- Put the pasta in a small bowl and cover with 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock or water, stirring occasionally to make sure the pasta isn’t clumping together.
- Add the bacon to a medium Dutch oven along with 2 tablespoons of water. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat melts out of the bacon and the bacon grows brown and crisp, 12 to 15 minutes. (If you’re using turkey bacon, add 1 tablespoon of any oil along with the water.)
- Meanwhile, smash, peel, and finely chop the garlic. Strip the collard leaves from the stems. Stack the leaves and cut lengthwise into four long sections. Stack the pieces and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch thick strips (you should have about 6 cups lightly packed).
- Using a slotted spoon, scoop the bacon from the Dutch oven and transfer to a plate, leaving the fat behind. Add the garlic and cook until tender and aromatic, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds.
- Add the collards, the remaining 2 1/2 cups of chicken stock or water, and a big pinch of salt and black pepper. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain an active simmer. Add the beans and cook, partially covered, until the liquid has reduced to about 1 cup and the greens are tender and silky, 40 to 45 minutes. Taste the greens and add more salt and black pepper if needed. (You want it to be very well seasoned at this point, so the liquid and greens can season the pasta.)
- Add the pasta along with the soaking liquid and simmer, stirring constantly, until the pasta is al dente, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the cheese, butter, and reserved bacon, and stir well to combine. Taste and add more salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes if needed.
- Divide the pasta among 4 bowls and garnish with more cheese.