Make this recipe with or without sausage, as either a meat-freevegetarian entree or an extra-hearty comfort classic. Substitutethe kale with blanched, roasted broccoli rabe for another version.
Makes: 4 servings
- 1 pound cavolo nero (also called black, tuscan, dinosaur or lacinato kale) or curly kale--stemmed, washed and dried
- About 5 tablespoons EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil)
- Salt and pepper
- 1 pound short or long fusilli pasta or curly spaghetti (look for an imported italian pasta)
- 1 pound hot or sweet italian bulk sausage (optional)
- 3 - 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 small italian red cherry chile pepper or 1 fresno chile pepper, seeded and finely chopped
- About 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
- A couple of small sprigs rosemary, finely chopped
- About 1 1/2 cups fresh sheeps- or cows-milk ricotta cheese
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- Shaved pecorino-romano cheese
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees . Dress the kale lightly with a couple of tablespoons EVOO; season with salt and pepper. Arrange on 2 baking sheets and bake for about 15 minutes, rotating and switching the pans midway through.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and return the pasta to the pot, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.
- Once the pasta water is boiling, if using the sausage, in a large skillet, drizzle 1 tablespoon EVOO over medium-high heat. Add the sausage, crumbling the meat, and cook until browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate. If youre skipping the sausage, heat the skillet to medium. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons EVOO, a couple of turns of the pan, to the skillet and reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the garlic and chile pepper to the skillet and stir for a couple of minutes. Stir in the thyme and rosemary.
- Whisk the reserved pasta cooking water into the garlic oil, then pour over the pasta. Add half of the crispy kale, the sausage (if using), ricotta and some nutmeg; toss vigorously to coat the pasta. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Serve in shallow bowls and top with the pecorino-romano and piles of the remaining crispy kale.