Fusilli with Crispy Kale and Ricotta

March 2011
Fusilli with Crispy Kale and Ricotta

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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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.