Friday, September 24, 2010


Autumn is officially here and so is my craving for kale. And sausage. And pasta. But there are still lovely summer tomatoes at the farmers’ market, so this recipe from Serious Eats fit my mood perfectly. I continue to be surprised that I haven’t already exhausted all the possible combinations of vegetables and pasta; not only was this considerably different than any recipe in my arsenal, but it might also be one of my new favorites. Hint: If you’re not sure you like kale, mixing it with garlic, red pepper flakes, fennel, and savory sausage is an excellent way to warm up to it.

My only complaint was that I definitely wanted more tomatoes (even though I’d already increased the amount from the original recipe; I used a whole cup and cut them in half to spread them around, to boot) and possibly more kale. I think I’ve gotten spoiled by Jack Bishop’s veggie-centric concoctions, and I get a little bored if I don’t have equal parts pasta and topping. So I’ve increased the amounts below. I also increased the amount of garlic, decreased the fennel (I love fennel seed and a teaspoon or two is my go-to secret ingredient in pizza sauce and spaghetti sauce, but 2 whole tablespoons seemed like it would be absolutely overpowering, considering most Italian sausage already contains it), and gave you the option of using less red pepper flakes (a teaspoon is quite generous, so start with ½ and see how you feel). But I was really impressed with how well the elements worked together and the way the sausage drippings, tomato juices, pasta water, and cheese made a silky, flavorful sauce (I’d been worried it would be too dry; it’s not the sauciest pasta in town and you can add a little drizzle of oil if you think it needs it, but I think adding extra tomatoes and kale will do the trick nicely). Oh, pasta, will your yumminess never cease?

1 pound fusilli or other short, curly pasta
1–2 large bunches kale, stems discarded and leaves chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
¾ pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed and discarded (I used chicken Italian sausage)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablepoon fennel seeds, crushed (if you don’t have a mortar and pestle, use a meat tenderizing mallet or the bottom of a glass or heavy bowl)
½–1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping

1. Bring two pots of salted water to boil: one for the kale and one for the pasta. Cook the kale in boiling water until tender, then drain well and set aside. Cook the pasta until al dente, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water before draining.

2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the sausage. Cook, breaking up well with a wooden spoon, until the fat is rendered and the meat is starting to brown. Add the garlic, fennel seeds, and red pepper flakes and continue cooking until the sausage is golden brown and caramelized.

3. Add the blanched kale to the skillet and stir to coat well. Cook for 2–3 minutes, then add the cherry tomatoes and cook until they just begin to lose their shape. Add the drained pasta, tossing to coat in the fat, adding pasta water and Parmesan as necessary to create a sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper and divide among bowls, topping with remaining Parmesan.

Serves: 6
Time: 40 minutes
Leftover potential: High

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