The Antonio Mattei cookie factory in Prato, Tuscany, has been making one product since its founding in 1858: dried biscuits called cantucci, or “biscotti di Prato.” (In America, we refer to them as “biscotti.”)
A genuine Tuscan meal always ends with a glass of vin santo and a plate of cantucci. The cookies are dipped into the wine quickly so that they absorb its sweet aromas and a superficial coating of moisture, but maintain crunchiness in the mouth.
The interplay of sweet Tuscan Vin Santo and the nutty crispness of these cookies is a traditional favorite; recommended producers include Fontodi, Capezzana and Avignonesi
1 pound bacon, diced
1 pound Swiss chard
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
12 ounces penne (quill-shaped pasta)
3 garlic cloves, pressed
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
Black pepper in a mill
8 ounces Vella Dry Jack cheese, grated (2 cups)
1 cup shelled pecans, coarsely chopped and toasted
Cook the bacon in a large saucepan or sauté pan until it is just crisp. With a slotted spoon, transfer it to paper towels to drain. Discard all but 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat. Set the pan aside.
Wash the Swiss chard, dry it thoroughly, and remove the stems. Trim and discard the base of the stems, and cut the stems into thin slices. Cut the leaves into 1/2-inch-thick crosswise strips. Keep the leaves and stems separate and set both aside. In a small bowl, mix together the mustard and vinegar and set the mixture aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the 1 tablespoon kosher salt, and cook the pasta according to the package directions until just tender. Drain thoroughly but do not rinse.
While the pasta cooks, heat the bacon fat and the olive oil over medium-low heat and, when it is hot, add the chard stems, garlic, and pepper flakes and sauté until the chard stems are tender. Add the chard leaves, cover the pan, cook until the leaves are wilted, about 4 or 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.
Place the hot pasta in a large bowl, pour the mustard mixture over it, and toss thoroughly. Add the chard mixture, the cheese, and three-quarters of the pecans and toss again. Top with the remaining pecans. Serve immediately.