Something magical happens when shallots and Swiss chard are sauteed and combined in a homemade creamy cheese sauce with pasta.
To me, this particular pasta dish just screams fall. Let me explain why. Even though Swiss chard is available all year round, it seems to only gain momentum and popularity in the fall. I think we should all consider using it more often, because it’s really delicious and super healthy too.
Unlike onions, shallots also tend to become more popular in the fall. I cook with shallots often, but not regularly. I actually prefer them over onions, because I find they are a little sweeter and have less onion-y flavour. But, they do cost a little more than onions.
Do I have to use Swiss Chard?
The answer is simple – no. If you don’t like Swiss chard, or if you’re not sure you want to try it, then feel free to substitute it. Swiss chard might not be easy to find for everyone. I imagine that it would be difficult to find in smaller towns. But you can totally substitute the Swiss chard with kale or even spinach.
Kale and Swiss chard will take about the same amount of time to cook, but if you decide to use spinach, it will cook and wilt much faster. I would recommend turning off the heat when adding the spinach to the shallots. Just stir to combine and allow the heat from the pan and the shallots to cook and wilt the spinach.
Do I have to use Shallots?
If you can find shallots, or if you can afford the extra money, then go for it. Will the dish be that different if you substitute the shallots for onions? No. Go ahead and use onions. Please note that onions tend to take a little longer to cook and brown, since they are not as delicate as shallots, so allow for a few more minutes of cooking time before adding the Swiss chard.
Either way you dice it, (see what I did there?) you will need about one and a quarter cups of shallots or onions. So you may need one or two shallots more than the five that’s stated in the recipe card, depending on the size of your shallots. If you’re using onion, one large onion will do the trick.
Talk to me about Cheese, Lord Byron!
I could talk about cheese until the cows come home, but I’ll save that for another post. I used white cheddar and parmesan in this dish, but you can use other cheeses as well. Basically, you want to use a cheese that melts down easily. We love aged white cheddar and always have it in the fridge, so that’s what I used.
If I were to buy cheese specifically for this dish, I would choose any of the following: Gouda, Havarti, or even Monterey Jack. Get a cheese that is firm yet creamy and gooey when it’s melted.
Milk and cheese are one in the same, so I’ll talk about the milk here too. The type of milk you use will affect the thickness of the cheese sauce. I used 2% homogenized milk. If you use whole milk or half and half, you might need to add a little bit of water to thin out the sauce.
To avoid the guesswork, pick yourself up some 2% milk at the store. There’s nothing worse than a homemade cheese sauce that is too thick. Remember, you want a creamy texture, not a gloppy, gluey mess.
Creamy Pasta with Shallots and Swiss Chard is not an every day type of pasta dish. It’s a special pasta which takes a few steps, but it’s completely worth it. I think this makes for a wonderful Sunday night dinner, or a great option for entertaining. Be sure to place that bowl of butter browned panko right in the middle of the table; your guests are going to be fighting over the last crumb!
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Creamy Pasta with Shallots and Swiss Chard
- 450 grams pasta, cooked, drained, and set aside
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 5 large shallots, peeled, cut in half, and sliced thinly
- 1 large bunch Swiss Chard, washed, stem removed and discarded, chard roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 cups milk
- 2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
- 2 cups Panko bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
- Before you begin making the sauce, cook the pasta and drain well. Set the pasta aside.
- Next, add two tablespoons of butter to a small skillet and over medium heat, melt the butter until it begins to bubble. Stir in the panko and continue to stir. Cook the panko until it turns a golden brown. Remove from heat, stir in the chopped parsley and set aside.
- In a large skillet, over medium heat, add the olive oil and shallots. Saute the shallots until they are a light golden brown.
- Add the Swiss chard and stir into the shallots. Add half of the salt and half of the black pepper. Stir to combine and cook until the chard is wilted.
- Remove the shallots and onions from the skillet and transfer to a glass bowl. Set aside.
- In the same skillet, melt the butter on medium heat. Add the remaining salt and pepper and stir them into the sizzling butter. Next, add the flour and whisk until the flour is absorbed by the butter and the entire mixture turns an amber colour. This process is cooking off the flour taste and creating a roux.
- Next, pour in the milk and whisk until thickened.
- Set aside your whisk and get a large wooden spoon. Add the cheeses and stir until completely combined and the cheese is melted.
- Add the cooked pasta and the shallot mixture; stir well into the cheese sauce. Once incorporated and fully heated through, plate and top with a sprinkling of the browned panko.
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