This pasta is so sublime, it needs a better name. Sure, it is orecchiette with kale and breadcrumbs… but that doesn’t tell you how creamy, garlicky and delicately spiced it is, and it doesn’t evoke a pasta that made me yearn for seconds. And that is what it is.
It’s also a great entrée to kale, if you are phobic. The kale is cooked down and chopped so finely that you’ll practically never notice it’s there, if you’re not into that sort of thing. Which my 2-year-old isn’t… and she still gobbled this up. Mostly from our plates rather than hers, but I’ll take what I can get!
- 1 lb lacinato kale (about 2 bunches), tough stems removed
- 5 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs
- 4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed, divided
- 1 lb orecchiette (little ear-shaped pasta)
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- ¼ tsp crushed red pepper
- ½ cup finely grated parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving
- salt and pepper
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil and cook the kale until tender, about 4 minutes. Remove the kale and transfer to a rimmed cutting board. Cool slightly and press out the moisture, then chop.
- Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbsp of the olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the breadcrumbs and 1 clove of the garlic and toast, stirring and tossing often, until golden brown.
- Return the kale cooking water to a boil and add the orecchiette. Cook until al dente, per the package directions. Drain, reserving 1½ cups of the cooking water.
- In a large saucepan (preferably the pot you just got done cooking the pasta in), melt the butter and the remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil. Add the tomato paste, crushed red pepper, the remaining 3 cloves of garlic and a healthy pinch of salt.
- Stir until fragrant and mixed, and then add the chopped kale and ½ cup of the pasta cooking water. Simmer until the kale is warm, about 3 minutes.
- Add the cooked pasta, another ½ cup of the pasta cooking water, half the toasted breadcrumbs and the parmesan cheese. Stir over low heat until well mixed and then add salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve warm, topped with the remaining breadcrumbs and additional parmesan cheese.