A plate of pasta with kale

How to make pasta with kale

This is a simple recipe for pasta with kale. I believe that any vegetable and probably fruit can be used in a pasta dish. My mom challenged me on this by asking me to write a recipe for pasta with kale.

I eat a lot of kale when it’s in season, but usually in soup or salad, not pasta. This was my first attempt at putting kale in my pasta. But I really liked it, my boyfriend, too. We will definitely be making this again. We’re always looking for light vegetable-based dinner ideas and this one is easy and tasty and requires few ingredients.

I took my inspiration for this recipe from orecchiette with cima di rapa or turnip greens, a traditional pasta dish from the Italian region of Puglia. If Italy was actually a boot, Puglia would be the heel. The region is known for its shimmering beaches but also for its olive oil. According to the New York Times, Puglia produces almost 40 percent of Italian olive oil and there are some 60,000,000 olive trees there. Having ridden a train through Puglia, I believe it too. Some areas are just oceans of olive trees as far as the eye can see. I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere else.

But back to the pasta. Orecchiette is a small round pasta shape from Puglia that gets its name for its resemblance to ears. Orecchio means ear in Italian and this pasta is a plate of little ears. And one of the traditional ways to serve it in Puglia is with turnip greens, often flavored with a little garlic, anchovies, and red pepper. It’s also good with sausage (but what’s not?).

I decided to make orecchiette with kale! Just like you would with turnip greens and it totally worked. And there is absolutely no need to use orecchiette as your pasta, although it is nice and does hold sauce well. I think pretty much any pasta shape would work here. I love penne and would like to try it with penne too.

Pasta with kale

Serves 2

  • A small bunch of kale. The amount is flexible. I weighed mine in at 300 grams before trimming. But this number is not tight. Use what you’ve got and if you’ve got a lot, go for a decent bunch but not gigantic.
  • Coarse salt
  • A clove of garlic, crushed
  • A pinch of red pepper chili flakes
  • 2 oil-packed anchovy fillets
  • Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 250 grams of pasta – most any shape will do. I used orecchiette, but I’d also try penne or even spaghetti in the future.
  1. Trim and wash the kale. You want to cut the thick tough part off that runs through the center. I just cut off the whole tail end.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a handful of coarse salt, and then boil the kale for about 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the crushed garlic, red pepper chili flakes, and anchovy fillets in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a pan large enough to hold the pasta after its cooked. Cook until the garlic starts to turn golden and then remove or leave in, up to you. I love to find the full garlic clove on my plate, my boyfriend does not.
  4. Remove the kale from the boiling water and add it to the pan with the olive oil and cook over medium heat for a few minutes until it starts to fall apart. Add more water if needed. Save the water the kale cooked in to cook the pasta.
  5. While the kale is cooking in the pan, cook the pasta.
  6. When the pasta is ready, drain it (but save some pasta water) and add the pasta to the pan with the kale and cook over high heat for about 30 seconds while tossing. If it’s too watery, cook a little longer. The starch in the pasta water will help thicken your sauce. If it’s not watery enough, add some more pasta water. Add a bunch of grated parmesan cheese (a couple handfuls will do) and a little more pasta water and toss and mix and cook some more.
  7. Plate and serve.

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