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Pasta with Kale Sauce

Pasta with Kale Sauce

Allison Jaynes


  • 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

Garlic bread:

  • Few pieces of crusty bread (New Pi’s sourdough round is excellent for this)

  • Vegan butter

  • Garlic, minced

  • Chopped parsley


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!


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.

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