Wait, this is Kale? I thought it was Spinach!

Today’s recipe was an adventure in using up kale. Which is actually pretty easy to do since, like all greens, it wilts down to pretty much nothing when cooked. I had purchased some last week to use in juices, but, not knowing what color it would turn the juice nor how it would taste, I chickened out and didn’t end up using it. So, I turned to Giada De Laurentiis for some help.

Today’s recipe is from her book Everyday Pasta, and in the introductory description, the California-Italian culinary queen writes “[Kale] has an assertive flavor that really stands up to the spicy sausages. This was the only way I would eat kale when I was young.” Now, I thoroughly enjoy kale, but you can probably guess that there are certain other members of this household whose taste buds are sometimes roughly equivalent to a young child’s. Needless to say, I was really counting on Giada to deliver! And I’m pleased to report that if you’ve got a picky eater in your house, this recipe may prove useful for sneaking in the powerhouse nutrients in this dark leafy vegetable.

Farfalle with Spicy Sausage and Kale (with my adaptations)


– 3 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 pound spicy Italian sausage, casings removed (I used sweet Italian)
– 1 medium onion, rough chopped
– 2 garlic cloves, minced
– 1/4 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced (I used 2 big handfuls)
– (1) 28oz. can peeled tomatoes with juice (I also added one 14oz. can diced tomatoes)
– salt and pepper
– 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (just eyeball it – use more or less depending on how spicy you like your sauce)
– 1 bunch of kale, stems removed, rinsed, and chopped
– 1/3 cup heavy cream
– 1 pound farfalle (bowtie) pasta (didn’t have any so I used fusili–the spiral kind)

1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook until golden brown, using a wooden spoon to break up the sausage. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and set aside.
2. Add the onions and garlic and cook for about 3 minutes, adding more oil if necessary. Add the mushrooms and cook until everything starts to brown, about 5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Meanwhile, partially fill another large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add salt to season the water then add the kale and cook for 5 minutes.
4. Add the canned tomatoes to your onion and mushroom pot and use the wooden spoon to scrape up any remaining brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the red pepper flakes and return the sausage to the pan. Stir in the cooked kale. Then reduce the heat and simmer the sauce, covered, for about 10 minutes.
5. While it’s bubbling away, bring your pasta water to a boil and season generously with salt. Cook pasta and drain.
6. Add the cream to the sauce and stir to combine. It will turn a nice creamy, reddish orange color. (I actually forgot to add the cream before serving, so if you’re watching calories, it will still taste great without the cream). Toss together pasta and the sauce in a bowl and sprinkle with Pecorino-Romano cheese (I used parmigiano-reggiano).

I served mine up with some garlic toast. Altogether a super comforting, delicious dish. The kale blended into the sauce nicely and tasted almost sweet. We’ve got lots of leftover sauce. And in attempt to prove that this dish passes the picky eaters test, when Alex was on his fifth or sixth bite, I instructed him to be sure to finish all of his kale. He paused, mid-chew, and said, “Wait, this is kale? I thought it was spinach! It’s good!” So, no guarantees, but it’s seriously yummy. If your picky eater is afraid of large green leaves, you might try chopping the kale even finer–maybe it will resemble basil?

So this recipe is definitely a keeper. Try it out and let me know how you like it! While we’re at it, go ahead and share some of your favorite recipes that feature a (healthy) surprise ingredient! How do you get your picky eater to eat the foods that are so good for them? (Bonus points for the most clandestine ideas!)

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5 thoughts on “Wait, this is Kale? I thought it was Spinach!

  1. Simone says:

    Kale chips! Tear the washed kale leaves into large-ish pieces. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a large baking tray with foil, then brush or spray it with oil. Add the kale, and spread it out as much as possible. Bake for 10 minutes, mixing it up once or twice during that time. Sprinkle with salt and/or other spices as desired, then bake 10 to 15 minutes more, stirring occasionally, until it’s as crisp as you like it. It will continue to shrink and crisp the longer it bakes. Watch closely and stir often to prevent burning or over-browning. Remove from oven and let cool on the tray.

    The kale shrinks a lot and it is really crispy and tasty.

    • jkelliott says:

      What a great idea! I’m looking forward to trying this. Do you have an estimate as to how long their crispiness will last in an airtight container?

      • Simone says:

        I’ve never actually had any last long – they’re extremely light and easy to eat a bunch at a time. But I suspect the crispiness is short-lived, and that they’re definitely better fresh.

  2. athegallant says:

    Jessalyn ! I am so enjoying reading your wonderful Blog – had to comment on this entry as I ❤ kale. YUM. Am definitely planning on making this one in our tiny studio apartment 🙂

    I'll continue to read with watering tastebuds !
    A

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