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Tuscan Kale with Orecchiette

This recipe is adapted from Sarah Copeland's forthcoming book, "Feast" (Chronicle Books).The deep savoriness of tuscan kale, a backyard-garden staple in northern Italy, makes a superb foundation for soups, sides, and vegetarian mains. In this deceptively simple dish (the onions are essentially quick-pickled right in the pan), the orecchiette is practically treated as a condiment. As soon as you sit at the table, stir a few slices of semisoft goat cheese into the hot greens and pasta until they soften. You'll think to yourself, I could live on this stuff.

  • Prep:
  • Total Time:
  • Servings: 4

Source: Martha Stewart Living, April 2013


  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more for serving
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • Coarse salt
  • 1 pound tuscan kale, stems removed and leaves torn into 3-inch pieces (about 10 cups)
  • 12 ounces orecchiette
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino-Romano cheese
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 ounces semisoft goat cheese (such as Le Chevrot), for serving


  1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and red-pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until onion is softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Sprinkle with sugar and toss to coat. Add vinegar and cook until completely reduced, about 1 minute. Season mixture with salt and remove from skillet.

  2. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to skillet and increase heat to medium-high. Add kale in batches and cook, stirring, until greens are wilted and just tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Season with salt. Return onion mixture to pan, stir to combine, and cook until just heated through.

  3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta water; drain pasta.

  4. Return pasta to pot, along with kale, butter, and Pecorino. Cook over medium heat, stirring and adding enough pasta water to form a light sauce that coats pasta. Add nutmeg to taste and season with salt. Divide among 4 bowls and serve each with a few thin slices of goat cheese on top and red-pepper flakes to taste.

Cook's Notes

Alternatives: Although the almost meaty quality of tuscan kale takes this dish over the top, other kale varieties are able stand-ins. In addition to pasta, kale has a great affinity for potatoes and white beans. Feel free to play.


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