Naturally vegan, this sauteed Swiss chard recipe is a great way to increase your intake of vegetables. This Italian side dish is simple to make and you can tailor it to your taste preferences by adjusting the seasonings you use.
Have you ever noticed that many Italian recipes contain just a few simple ingredients? As a result, they must be as fresh as possible. Simple, high-quality ingredients are one of the keys to Italian cuisine.
Italians discovered long ago that anything sauteed in olive oil and infused with fresh garlic cloves is truly a taste sensation.
The results are always delicious, whether it is broccolini, green beans, broccoli rabe, or escarole.
This simple recipe for Italian Swiss chard is first parboiled and then gently sauteed with fresh chopped garlic in olive oil. The result creates an easy side dish or a tasty addition to omelets, frittatas, or quiche. It’s also great in sandwiches and piadinas for a quick and healthy meal.
What is Swiss Chard?
Swiss chard is a leafy green vegetable that is part of the beet family. It is also known as spinach beet, silverbeet, or mangold. Swiss chard is a source of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as magnesium, potassium, and iron.
When shopping for Swiss chard, look for crisp leaves with vibrant color. Avoid any wilted or yellowed leaves, as these are an indication that the chard is past its prime.
The stems and leaves of Swiss chard are both edible. The stems of Swiss chard come in a variety of hues, including white, yellow, and red. The leaves might be either green or rainbow (a combination of different colors).
I am using a combination of Swiss and rainbow chard to make one of my favorite family recipes.
What does it taste like?
Swiss chard has a slightly bitter taste, similar to that of kale or spinach. When eaten raw, the bitterness is more pronounced.
However, when Swiss chard is cooked, whether braised, sauteed, or roasted, the bitterness dissipates and it takes on a milder flavor.
Mise en place
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. While we wait, let’s prep our two main ingredients.
Prep the chard: Whether store-bought or freshly picked, this green leafy vegetable needs proper rinsing to remove the dirt and sand. Fill a large mixing bowl with water and gently rub off the dirt and sand from each leaf.
There is no need to dry it off as we will parboil it before sauteeing with the garlic.
With a sharp knife, trim off the bottom of the individual stems. If there are other visible dark spots on the stem, use a vegetable peeler to remove them.
Then, cut the thick ribs from the green leafy part and keep them in two separate piles.
Prep the garlic: Remove the papery skin of 2-3 garlic cloves and cut off the tips. Give them a rough chop. Feel free to use more (or less) according to your preference and the size of your cloves.
How to parboil Swiss chard
- Once the pot of salted water comes to a rolling boil, add the ribs.
- Boil for 3-5 minutes or until just beginning to soften. The total time depends on their size.
- Add the leafy portion and boil for approximately 1-2 minutes.
- Remove from the water and drain in a colander.
How to cook chard
Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the chopped garlic, and a pinch of chili flakes or red pepper flakes (if using) to a large skillet.
Turn the heat on to medium and shake the pan back and forth. Alternately, constantly stir the garlic. This can take 2-3 minutes.
Once the garlic begins to turn a light golden brown, remove the pan from heat and add the parboiled Swiss chard. Watch for splattering.
Use tongs to turn it over to properly coat it with the garlic-infused oil.
Place the pan back on the heat, and season with salt and pepper according to taste.
Cover the skillet and allow it to cook for up to 5 minutes or until tender but still a little crisp. If necessary, add a few tablespoons of water.
Taste and adjust seasonings.
Serve as is or chopped up.
Place on the serving dish and drizzle with olive oil and shavings of Parmesan cheese (optional).
- For best results, choose chard that looks fresh. The leaves should be a bright color and firm; the ribs should be crisp and rigid. Before making the recipe, take a few extra minutes to rinse the leaves and rinse them properly.
- Add the oil, chopped garlic, and pepper flakes (if used) to the pan first, then turn on the heat. This allows the garlic to cook slowly. It also prevents it from cooking too quickly.
- Cook until tender but still a little crisp.
- It can be left as is or chopped up before serving.
Can you eat the stems?
The thick stems also referred to as the ribs of Swiss chard, are edible and equally delicious as the green leafy counterparts. Cook them a few minutes longer than the leaves.
How to cook Swiss vs. rainbow chard
There is no difference whether you are cooking Swiss chard or rainbow chard. Most varieties of chard are interchangeable in recipes.
What foods go well with sauteed chard?
This sauteed green makes a great side dish to almost any main meal, whether lamb, veal, chicken, or fish. Chard can also be combined with potatoes or served as a topping for creamy polenta.
This particular recipe for sauteed rainbow chard is great with lemon shrimp, scallops, pasta, in a quiche, or even in soups.
Would you believe me if I told you that there was never any shortage of green leafy vegetables in my youth? Maybe – after all, I’ve already shared with you how my mom would prepare Italian greens.
The combination of parboiling and then sauteeing green vegetables in olive oil was my mom’s specialty. She would tell us that parboiling the Swiss chard before sauteing it removed the bitterness.
I’ve shared here a few pictures of what the garden in the backyard of my parents’ house used to look like. There was truly an abundance of spinach, mustard greens, rapini (Broccoli Rabe), collard greens, red and green leaf romaine lettuce and, of course, Swiss chard, also known as bietola.
This Italian side dish was a weekly occurrence on the supper table. In the summer, it was fresh from the backyard garden. In the winter, it was from the freezer. My mom would freeze so much, that there was never any shortage throughout the winter.
To freeze swiss chard, thoroughly wash to remove dirt and sand. Separate the stalks from the leaves. Parboil the stems first in a large pot of salted water, for 2-3 minutes. Remove and transfer to an ice water bath to stop the cooking. Repeat with the leaves parboiling for 1- 2 minutes. Then, press out as much water as possible, bring it to room temperature and freeze in desired amounts. More details can be found in this article on how to freeze Swiss chard.
We ate our greens throughout winter whether it was in soups, frittatas, pies, to top off pizza and focaccia or simply combined with pasta and chickpeas.
Doesn’t this bring the concept of clean eating to another level!
This family recipe for bietole is a simple and delicious way to make sure you are getting those all-important antioxidants and phytochemicals!
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★★★★★ If you have made this simple swiss chard recipe, I would love to hear about it in the comments below and be sure to rate the recipe!
Sauteed Swiss Chard Recipe - Italian Style
- 1 bunch Swiss chard fresh or rainbow chard
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2-3 cloves garlic coarsely chopped
- pinch crushed red pepper or chili flakes or more-according to taste
- 1-2 tablespoons water optional
- salt and pepper to taste
- olive oil for drizzling
- Parmesan cheese shavings optional
- Set a large pot of salted water to boil.
- Meanwhile, properly rinse the chard to remove dirt and sand.
- Trim off the ends. Cut off the ribs from the leafy part.
- Once the water has started boiling, throw in the ribs. Boil for 3-5 minutes or until beginning to soften.
- Add the green leaves and continue to boil for approximately 1-2 minutes.
- Drain thoroughly in a colander
- Add the olive oil, the chopped garlic and a pinch of pepper flakes (if using) to a large skillet.
- Turn the heat on to medium and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Once the garlic begins to turn a light golden brown, remove from heat and add the parboiled Swiss chard. Watch for splattering.
- Use tongs to turn it over to properly coat it with the garlic-infused oil.
- Place the pan back on the heat, and season with salt and pepper according to taste.
- Cover the skillet and allow it to cook for up to 5 minutes or until tender but still a little crisp. If necessary add a few tablespoons of water.
- Taste and adjust for seasonings.
- Place on serving dish and drizzle with olive oil and shavings of Parmesan cheese.
- For best results, choose chard that looks fresh. Leaves should be a bright color and firm; the ribs should be crisp and rigid.
- Take a few extra minutes to properly rinse the leaves and ribs right before making the recipe.
- Add the oil, chopped garlic and red pepper flakes (if using) to the pan first, and then turn on the heat. This allows the garlic to slowly cook. It also prevents it from cooking too quickly.
- Cook until tender but still a little crisp.
- It can be left as is or chopped up before serving.
This post was originally published on June 14, 2015, republished on June 22, 2020, and again on July 7, 2022 with updated content. Thanks for sharing.
Really enjoyed this idea. I’ve been having a great love affair with chard of late. Used two large bunches and put it over polenta (not the tube, cooked in a pot with herbs and seasonings). Heavenly. Thanks so much!
Such a great combination! Thanks for sharing LisaRose.
bin growing and cooking chard for 70 years ,the Family that is ,,,the stems are cut in bite size pieces and par boiled till aaldente. while olive oil garlic are warming garlic should be fragrant do not use high heat or it will change in flavor , leaf is torn by hand so you get more flavor a knife cut partially seals the minute veins and seals it in , stems are drained and ready turn heat up to medium add to pan add torn leafs the water left on them from washing will creat steam so toss them to coat a little salt maybe some crushed red chili cover steam will cook them all done in a skillet ,,,,,a nice treat is to take stems cut about 4 inches long parboil in salted water drain cool down flour dredge dip in egg and in seasoned bread crumbs with parmesan or Ramano and fry in olive oil ,,,yummmm. and as an old time associate Jimmy , James Beard , would say. “Good Eating “
Thanks so much for sharing Joseph. Sounds like a great method. Wow, definitely “Good Eating”.