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Orecchiette with Sausage, Kale, Garlic and Pine Nuts

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Orecchiette with Sausage, Kale, Garlic and Pine Nuts is a bold mix of flavors with a kick from red pepper flakes and spicy Italian sausage. This easy dish is on the table in about 30 minutes and a complete meal in a bowl

This post and recipe card updated February 14, 2020
overhead shot of finished Orecchiette with Sausage, Kale, Garlic and Pine Nuts in a white bowl with a fork on the right hand side

When I worked in an office I went through several lunch evolutions. Eating at home every day…boring. Eating out every day with friends…fun but expensive and kinda unhealthy.

Eventually, I balanced it out to eat at home most of the time. And now that I work from home, I haven’t really changed that.

I buy meat in bulk, portion it out, and freeze it for later. And one whole shelf of my pantry looks like the pasta aisle of the grocery store. Which is perfect to give me ready options.

One of my favorite things to make for lunch is Orecchiette with Sausage, Kale, Garlic and Pine Nuts

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS
  • You can use your favorite type of sausage
  • Kale adds a hearty and nutritious bite to the dish
  • It’s easy to make for a crowd, and on the table in about 30 minutes
close up angle shot of finished Orecchiette with Sausage, Kale, Garlic and Pine Nuts in a white bowl with a green napkin in the background

Wow, this Orecchiette with Sausage, Kale, Garlic and Pine Nuts is excellent and absolutely bursting with flavors.

INGREDIENT TIPS FOR ORECCHIETTE WITH SAUSAGE, KALE, GARLIC AND PINE NUTS

I use Johnsonville Hot Italian Sausage because I always have it on hand, and the links are perfection portions.

The “little ears” shape of Orecchiette Pasta makes perfect little pouches to grab every drop of flavor and broth.

Pine Nuts add a nice crunch to the dish. Toast the pine nuts first over medium-low heat, to release the oils and nutty flavor.

Garlic and pine nuts are tricky because it takes a few minutes to go from raw to golden, but then they burn in seconds. I’ve done both numerous times, and it’s never a good situation.

I use my Homemade Vegetable Broth because it’s simple to make, and has so much flavor. If you use store-bought broth, look for low sodium or no salt added.

I always have a chunk of fresh-grated Parmigiano Reggiano in the fridge. It adds a wonderful bite, and there’s no comparison between fresh and the stuff in the can.

Kale is the main vegetable, and I chop it as small as possible so it cooks more quickly. I also add fresh baby spinach for the last few minutes, because there’s no such thing as too much green.

SUBSTITUTIONS AND OPTIONS

As I mentioned, I use hot Italian sausage. It also comes in mild and sweet. You could also substitute regular sausage, pork sausage or chicken sausage.

The hot Italian sausage doesn’t have enough of a kick for my tastes, so I add red pepper flakes. If you use one of the other sausages, you will need to add more.

For the pasta, you can substitute any short-cut shape.

overhead shot of finished Orecchiette with Sausage, Kale, Garlic and Pine Nuts in a white bowl with a fork on the right hand side
STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta for 10 minutes. Drain, reserving 2 Tablespoons of pasta water.

Toast the pine nuts in a large, dry skillet over medium-low heat for 2-3 minutes. Watch carefully, and toss occasionally. Remove pine nuts and set aside.

Melt butter in the same skillet, add onion and a pinch of salt. Cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes, until translucent.

Add garlic and cook for 3 minutes, until golden. Remove onions and garlic and set aside.

Add Italian sausage to the skillet, and break up into small pieces. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, and add red pepper flakes.

overhead process shot of Italian sausage in a black skillet

Add kale and broth to the skillet

overhead process shot: sausage and kale cooking in a black skillet

Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until the kale is tender.

Add the pasta, reserved water, spinach, garlic, and onions.

overhead process shot: sausage, kale and onion/garlic mixture, topped with cooked pasta and baby spinach in a black skillet

Cook until the water is absorbed and the spinach has wilted.

Add pine nuts and black pepper, and stir to combine. Transfer to a serving bowl, and top with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

close up angle shot of finished Orecchiette with Sausage, Kale, Garlic and Pine Nuts in a white bowl with a green napkin in the background
SERVING AND LEFTOVERS

I make Orecchiette with Sausage, Kale, Garlic and Pine Nuts regularly for lunch. It’s a complete meal in a bowl, hearty and so delicious.

You can easily double the recipe and have leftovers for lunch the next day. It reheats well in the microwave and, stored in an airtight container in the fridge, will last up to 5 days.

MORE DELICIOUS ITALIAN SAUSAGE RECIPES
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Orecchiette with Sausage, Kale, Garlic & Pine Nuts - Karyl's Kulinary Krusade

Orecchiette with Sausage, Kale, Garlic, and Pine Nuts

Yield: 2 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Orecchiette with Sausage, Kale, Garlic and Pine Nuts is a bold mix of flavors with a kick from red pepper flakes and spicy Italian sausage. This easy dish is on the table in about 30 minutes and a complete meal in a bowl

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces Orecchiette pasta
  • 1 Tablespoon pine nuts
  • 2 spicy Italian sausage links, casings removed
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 Tablespoon avocado oil or canola oil
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves raw garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups kale, stalks removed, chopped into small pieces, rinsed thoroughly
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more or less, to taste)
  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta for 10 minutes. Drain, reserving 2 Tablespoons of pasta water
  2. Add the pine nuts to a large, dry skillet. Toast over medium-low heat for 2-3 minutes until golden brown, tossing occasionally. Watch carefully, as pine nuts will burn quickly. Transfer pine nuts to a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Melt butter in the same skillet. Add onion and a pinch of salt. Cook over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, until onions are golden. Add sliced garlic, and cook for 3 minutes. Transfer mixture to a bowl and set aside.
  4. If using Italian sausage, wipe pan clean. If using turkey or chicken sausage, add 1 Tablespoon canola or avocado oil
  5. Add Italian sausage to the skillet, and break it up into small pieces. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, and add red pepper flakes. The sausage will NOT be fully cooked through
  6. Add kale and broth to the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until kale is tender, about 7 minutes
  7. Add the pasta, reserved water, spinach, garlic, and onions. Cook until water is absorbed and spinach has wilted
  8. Add pine nuts and black pepper, and stir to combine
  9. Transfer to a serving bowl. Top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Notes

Use fresh-grated Parmesan or Parmigiano Reggiano, as it has a wonderful fresh nutty bite. You won't get the same flavor from the stuff in the can.

Garlic and pine nuts are tricky. It takes a few minutes to go from raw to golden, but then they burn in seconds. Once they burn it’s too late. I’ve done it numerous times with both, and it’s never a good situation.

SUBSTITUTIONS AND OPTIONS

As I mentioned, I use hot Italian sausage. It also comes in mild and sweet. You could also substitute regular sausage, pork sausage or chicken sausage.

The hot Italian sausage doesn’t have enough of a kick for my tastes, so I add red pepper flakes. If you use one of the other sausages, you will need to add more. But be careful, because a little goes a long way.

For the pasta, you can substitute any short-cut shape.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1 Servings
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 656Total Fat: 46gSaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 33gCholesterol: 63mgSodium: 841mgCarbohydrates: 40gFiber: 7gSugar: 7gProtein: 24g

Nutrient values are estimates only. Variations may occur due to product availability and food preparation. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients, etc

Adapted from Maui Flower Child

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