kitchen firsts: pasta with kale, parmesan, and toasted garlic breadcrumbs
Kale is one of those kitchen firsts where I’ve eaten the stuff a thousand times, but never actually cooked it for myself. You see, I kind of always thought that I didn’t like kale, or that it was ok but not worth my time or effort to actually cook at home. But in the name of getting back on the kitchen firsts wagon before the end of the year, it seemed high time to go and get a bunch of kale, and little did we know we’d be back to the market the next day to get some more.
You see, we got a bit distracted with our first bunch of kale, but were too excited about the prospect of this pasta to wait to make it. So another bunch came home with us, and I’m so glad that it did because this pasta was a kale revelation! I was a little skeptical about it, even up to the very moment that I tossed all the parts of the dish together, because tasting the parts separately (the spicy breadcrumbs, braised kale, pasta, and parmesan) it really didn’t seem like anything to write home about. But it is way more than the sum of its parts, and I feel confident saying that this dish would appeal to kale-lovers and kale-haters alike– the kale becomes mild and tender as it braises, the cheese gives a little rich nuttiness, the lemon gives a nice lift, and the spicy, garlicky breadcrumbs provide a nice aromatic crunch. All in all, a very satisfying pasta for a late autumn dinner, and one you can feel good about eating too!
Pasta with Kale, Parmesan, and Toasted Garlic Breadcrumbs
Adapted from Molly Wizenberg’s Spaghetti with Braised Kale, and the Tuscan Kale Salad from 1o1 cookbooks
Makes 3 generous servings or 4 lighter servings
1 T butter or olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cub fresh breadcrumbs or panko
scant 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 large bunch tuscan or green kale (dish will work with anywhere between 1/2 lb and 1 lb)
2 T olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (about 2/3 cup)
1/3 cup water
1/2 lb pasta of your choice
1 T lemon juice
2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
Melt the tablespoon of butter or olive oil in a large skillet over medium low heat. Saute the garlic for 30 seconds, then add the breadcrumbs or panko and red pepper flakes and stir, toasting gently until golden brown. Reserve. Wipe out pan. (If you taste the breadcrumbs by themselves, they will be quite spicy, but when mixed with the whole dish the spice level is perfect).
Place a large pot of salted water over high heat and bring it to a boil for the pasta. Remove ribs from the kale by folding leaves in half lengthwise and sliding a knife along the ribs. Discard the ribs, then chop the leaves roughly into 1/2 inch strips. Rinse kale and leave to drain in a colander.
Return the skillet to medium heat and add the remaining 2 T olive oil. Saute the onion until soft, about 5 minutes. Take the kale from the colander, some water still clinging to it, and add it to the pan. Stir until wilted, about 2 or 3 minutes, then add the 1/3 cup water and cover. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the kale is very tender, about 20 minutes (adding more water if the pan becomes dry). It’s ok (even tastier, I think) if the onions caramelize a little bit during this process, as long as you’re careful not to let them burn.
Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Reserve a ladle of pasta water, then drain the pasta. Add the drained pasta to the tender kale in the skillet and stir, then squeeze in the juice of half a lemon (about 1 T), and add pasta water to loosen if necessary. Add half of the parmesan, and stir to melt a bit. Serve the pasta, topping each bowl with additional parmesan and a generous handful of bread crumbs.