Looking for a hearty dish that’s full of flavors, easy to make, and delicious? Try this Orecchiette with Sausage, Kale, Garlic and Pine Nuts
I’ve gone through several lunch evolutions since I moved to Stillwater. When I first moved here, I went home for lunch every day. That got old pretty quickly, and even worse, a couple of times I fell asleep on the couch after lunch. Then I went completely the other direction, and ate out every day. It’s more fun and much more social, but it is expensive. Also, there aren’t a whole lot of healthy options in Stillwater. Well, there probably are, but when everyone else is getting yummy deliciousness I lose all willpower. So then I circled back around to eating at home most of the time, but occasionally going out for lunch. This works much better for both my wallet and waistline, and also helps the blog.
I almost always have Italian sausage in the freezer. The links are perfect individual portions, and it cooks up so easily. My favorite brand is Johnsonville, and I always use the spicy version. I first discovered the Italian sausage a couple of years ago, and for a while only had one recipe that I made. Thanks to Pinterest, I’ve been able to branch out and discover many new recipes. Earlier this fall I published Recipe Roundup: Italian Sausage Recipes, a collection of 30 recipes.
One of the very early recipes I found was Orecchiette Pasta with Kale, Sausage, and Garlic Chips. Of course I had to add a few twists of my own, and created Orecchiette with Sausage, Kale, Garlic and Pine Nuts.
Wow, this Orecchiette with Sausage, Kale, Garlic and Pine Nuts is excellent, and absolutely bursting with flavors. It is easy to make, and the flavors work very well together. You can substitute regular pork sausage, or lighten it up with turkey or chicken sausage.
The original recipe calls for browning the sausage in some of the oil used for making the garlic chips. Italian and pork sausage emit their own oil while browning, so you wouldn’t want to add more. However, if you are using turkey or chicken sausage, you will want to use some of the reserved oil.
I use hot Italian sausage, but I find that it doesn’t always add enough kick for my tastes, so I add red pepper flakes. This also allows you to control the heat. You can even add more pepper flakes at the end. Raw pine nuts are good, but toasting them adds a whole new flavor dimension. Both garlic and pine nuts are tricky, as they brown quickly. You have to watch both carefully, because they go from golden brown to burnt very quickly. Believe me, I’ve failed miserably with them numerous times.
I believe that any short pasta will work for this Orecchiette with Sausage, Kale, Garlic and Pine Nuts, but I’ve just always used orecchiette. The shape of the pasta is kind of a pocket to hold onto the flavors of the dish. Kale is the vegetable in this dish, but I have also added baby spinach in the last few minutes of cooking. There’s no such thing as too much green, and it adds another layer of flavor. Until a few years ago I always bought the canned parmesan cheese. Once I discovered the chunks of fresh parmesan, I’ve never looked back. There is absolutely no comparison in taste or flavor.
This Orecchiette with Sausage, Kale, Garlic and Pine Nuts is now definitely on my regular lunch rotation.
Adapted from Maui Flour Child
Orecchiette with Sausage, Kale, Garlic, and Pine Nuts
- 4 ounces Orecchiette pasta
- 2 spicy Italian sausage links, casings removed
- 1/4 cup yellow onion, sliced
- 1/2 Tablespoon Margarine
- 2 cups kale, stalks removed, chopped into small pieces, rinsed thoroughly
- 1 cup baby spinach
- 3 cloves raw garlic
- 1/4 cup vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
- 1 Tablespoon pine nuts
- 1 Tablespoon Freshly grated parmesan cheese
Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box
In small skillet, melt margarine. Add onion and lightly season with salt. Cook over medium-low heat until onions are golden brown
Add pine nuts to a small skillet, and turn heat to medium-low. Toast until golden brown, tossing occasionally. Watch carefully, as pine nuts will burn quickly. Remove and set aside.
Thinly slice the raw garlic. Add enough oil to cover the bottom of a medium pan, and add garlic slices. Cook on low heat until garlic is lightly browned. Keep an eye on the garlic...it will turn from golden to burnt very quickly. Remove garlic chips and set aside.
If using Italian sausage, discard oil and wipe pan clean. If using white meat sausage, reserve 1 Tablespoon of oil.
Break up sausage into small pieces, and then brown sausage in pan over medium heat.
Add red pepper flakes when sausage is almost browned through
Add kale and broth to pan. Reduce heat to low, and cook until kale is tender. The smaller the pieces of kale, the faster they will cook.
Drain the pasta, reserving 1 Tablespoon of pasta water. Add the pasta, reserved water, spinach and onions. Cook until water is absorbed and spinach has wilted
Add pine nuts and garlic chips and stir to combine
Transfer to a serving bowl. Top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.
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For more great recipes using pasta, click on the photos below!