A light pasta dish is filling and easy to throw together quickly. Use flavorful sausage, mild baby kale, pine nuts, and a high quality cheese.
For the following recipe, I used what I had on hand; great garlic lamb sausages from French Hill Farm here in Maine, baby kale, pine nuts, and wonderful authentic parmegiano reggiano cheese. I used orecchiette pasta; orecchiette, or ‘little ears’, originally comes from Puglia, but are now found all over Italy. The classic Italian cookbook, The Silver Spoon, recommends vegetable sauces to accompany orecchiette, so a perfect combination with kale. But I think any good quality pasta will do.
To make the most of the few ingredients, here are four simple tips for making any pasta dish perfect:
1. Be liberal in salting the pasta water. Add salt until the water tastes like the sea, as I was coached in culinary school. It won’t all absorb in the pasta, just enough to flavor it well.
2. Cook just until al dente, and use a good quality dried pasta. We want a nice, somewhat firm texture. Too much cooking, or a low quality dried pasta (or even worse, both) will end up with mushy pasta.
3. Reserve a bit of pasta water to loosen up the sauce. I take a cup full out before draining.
4. Use a high quality cheese, not pre grated ersatz “Parmesan”.
- 8 ounces sausage
- 5 ounces kale
- 1 - 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (optional)
- kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 pound dried orecchiette pasta
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
- ½ cup grated parmigiano reggiano or grana padano cheese
- In a large sauté pan, cook the sausage over medium low heat until just done. Remove from heat and cut into small pieces.
- In the same sauté pan, increase the heat to medium and add the kale. Cook until tender, then add the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 1 more minute. Add the cooked sausage and stir to combine. Season with the red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Turn off heat.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add salt until the pasta water is salty like sea water. Cook the pasta until just al dente - you want the pasta to have some firmness, not mushy. Reserve a cup of the pasta water, then drain.
- Add the cooked orecchiette to the sautéed kale and sausage. Stir to combine, adding a bit of the reserved pasta water if you prefer it a bit looser in texture. Stir in the pine nuts and grated cheese, and season to taste with ground pepper. Serve immediately.