Pasta with Kale Sauce
2-4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
6-10 cloves garlic (depending on your love of garlic), peeled and rough chopped
1 ½ pounds lacinato kale, ribs removed (about 3 bunches), rough chopped
1 lb. pasta (rigatoni or orecchiette works well)
1 C + 2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground pepper, to taste
Garnish suggestions (optional): cherry tomatoes, chopped; vegan parmesan cheese
Few pieces of crusty bread (New Pi’s sourdough round is excellent for this)
Boil a large pot of water with a generous amount of salt. Add kale leaves and cook approximately 5 minutes. The leaves should be tender but not falling apart.
Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat; add the olive oil and garlic. Cook about 5 minutes until the garlic smells fragrant. Remove from heat.
When the kale is done, carefully remove the leaves with tongs or slotted spoon and drop them straight into the blender. (Don’t discard the cooking water — you will use that for the pasta.) Ladle ½ cup of the cooking water into the blender; add the nutritional yeast and garlic/olive oil; blend into a smooth, thick consistency. Add more cooking water, if needed.
Return the water to a boil and add the pasta; cook according to the package instructions.
While the pasta is cooking, prepare the garlic bread. Spread vegan butter and minced garlic on each slice, sprinkling some fresh parsley on top. Place in a hot oven or toaster oven for a few minutes.
Drain the pasta, reserving 1 C of the cooking water. Combine the kale sauce with the pasta; toss to coat. If a bit more liquid is needed, add the reserved water a small amount at a time until it comes together perfectly. Add salt and pepper to taste. I usually add approximately ½ tsp. of salt.
Top with chopped cherry tomatoes, vegan parmesan cheese, or whatever you fancy. Serve immediately with hot garlic bread — and those morels if you’re lucky enough to find them!
MORE FROM THE AUTHOR
Kale is like an old friend to me. After I’ve gone without it for a while, I start to crave it. In the garden, it can be the first one to arrive and the last one to leave, due to its cold hardiness. It is versatile, fulfilling and trustworthy. It can be crunchy or soft — whatever I need at the time. When finely chopped, it adds heft to a plain tomato sauce. When massaged with dressing, the large leaves become tender and buttery. In short, it never lets me down.
While most people don’t automatically think of kale as comfort food, this recipe may change your mind. The sauce uses an entire pound and a half of kale and transmutes it into a velvety consistency that clings to the fresh pasta like a hug. The taste is salty, earthy, a bit cheesy — delicious. You’ll need a blender, but any old blender will do, as the cooked kale blends easily.
The one thing in this recipe you may not have encountered before is nutritional yeast. Don’t let the stuffiness of the name fool you — it’s a flavorful flake that you’ll be using in all sorts of dishes in no time. Halfway between a spice and a flour, nutritional yeast imparts a cheesy, nutty taste to everything it touches. Most grocery stores carry it these days, and it can be frozen for months to keep fresh. Don’t skip the “nooch” — it’s essential to this dish!
The fungi fanatics among us have already noticed the pile of fried morels at the edge of the plate in the photo. Although this year hasn’t been the best for rain and mushroom growth, they are out there if you have the patience to find them. If you (or a generous friend) find a patch, they pair well with this dish. Just soak in water — to hydrate and get the “buggers” out — then let them dry a bit, cut in half lengthwise and roll each half in a dusting of flour. Cook in a hot pan with oil or vegan butter for a few minutes on each side until golden brown.