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Pasta with silverbeet, copper and chilli

I’ve spoken a bit recently about the good old Women’s Weekly cookbooks that were so important for my childhood cooking, so I won’t go on about them again, but this is another recipe from these books that we used to cook often.  I can’t actually remember, but I assume mum and dad generally grew the silverbeet, as it’s an easy vegetable to grow, and, with pasta, a good way to bulk out a meal for seven…


The recipe is written to be made with coppa, an Italian cured pork made from the neck or shoulder.  I find this a little surprising given the era of the recipe, as coppa is not terribly common even now, and I usually use proscuitto or bacon as a substitute, though I will have to ask around at a couple of good delis.

rinse silverbeet well

The silverbeet combines beautifully with the chilli and smoky pork, and if you use the stalks as well it adds a lovely sweetness.  If you don’t like the crunch from the stalks, I suggest you save them for this recipe.  The silverbeet will seem like an enormous pile when you first chop it, but it cooks down incredibly, so be generous!

slice bacon/coppa and finely chop onion

If everyone in the family like parmesan I suggest tossing a generous amount through the pasta so it can meld with the silverbeet; otherwise, people can add their own at the table.

I’m interested to know – have any of you cooked with coppa?  And, as I’m finding I’m posting a lot of family pasta recipes, what’s your favourite pasta?

Edit 26/6/18 – For Canberra readers, Pialligo Estate Smokehouse now makes coppa, so you will be able to find it at many independent grocers around Canberra, and the deli at Belconnen markets also stocks it.

Silverbeet, coppa and chilli pasta

Adapted from the AWW Italian Cooking Class Cookbook

  • 1 large bunch silverbeet (chard) (about 7 or 8 stalks)
  • 150g coppa/proscuitto/bacon
  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 medium red capsicum
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 500g fusilli or similar short pasta
  • parmesan, salt and pepper to taste

Cut the stalks from the silverbeet as pictured above, and wash leaves and stalks thoroughly.  I trim any brown or wilted bits from both then soak in a salad spinner of cold water for about 10 min before rinsing and spinning briefly to remove excess water.

If using the stalks as well, slice thinly, and finely shred the leaves.  I didn’t use the stalks in this dish as I had already planned to use them in a stalk and cauliflower leaf pesto.  Slice the pork product of your choice, and finely dice the onion.  Mince the garlic, and chop the capsicum.

Heat a large pan of salted water for the pasta.  Cook pasta according to packet directions while frying other ingredients.

Add the pork to a large cold pan, and heat gently to release the fat. Continue to fry gently until most fat is released and it is becoming crisp.  Add the onion and chilli and fry another couple of minutes.  (If using stalks then add them now).  Increase heat and add garlic, capsicum and silverbeet leaves, stirring often until silverbeet is wilted.

Drain pasta, reserving some of the water, and stir into the pan with the vegetables, adding some of the water and a splash of olive oil if needed to thoroughly coat the pasta.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with freshly grated parmesan.

Serves six, or four with a couple of lunches.