Four ingredients are all you need to prepare this Orecchiette with Sausage and Kale for a satisfying weeknight meal. This blend of pasta, meat, and vegetable can be customized to your taste or based on what's in your pantry.
Why you will love this dish
There's nothing more comforting than serving up a delicious and hearty dinner that comes together in less than 30 minutes with just a handful of ingredients. Orecchiette with Sausage and Kale is just this dish.
This recipe is not only quick and easy, but it's made with simple, fuss-free ingredients. And this is a huge win on busy weeknights or anytime when you want to get dinner on the table in a jiffy.
This pasta may be short on ingredients but it's definitely not short on flavor. The sausage is bold and spicy, the kale is earthy, and the Parmesan is nutty. The sauce comes together with Parmesan cheese and pasta water. For extra heat, feel free to add some crushed red pepper flakes.
How to buy, store, and prep kale
Kale is a dark, leafy green that is part of the cabbage family. It is known for its high nutritional value and is full of antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins. Kale can be eaten raw in salads and smoothies or cooked in soups and pasta dishes.
- Buying - Look for kale with dark, firm leaves and stems that are strong and moist. Kale can be found in the refrigerated produce section of your supermarket.
- Storing - Wash the kale after purchasing. Shake off the excess water and wrap in paper towels. Store in a zipper-top bag, pressing out the excess air before sealing. Store in the produce drawer of your refrigerator for 5-7 days.
- Prepping - Kale stems are tough and fibrous. While they are edible when cooked, I prefer to remove the stems before adding kale to recipes. To easily remove the stems, fold the kale leaf in half and run your knife along the stem, separating it from the leaves. Discard the stems and chop the leaves.
Orecchiette is a small pasta that resembles elephant ears. It can sometimes be hard to find, so you can easily substitute farfalle (bow tie), rotini, penne, or any small-medium shaped pasta.
I like the spicy, bold flavor of hot Italian sausage, but sweet Italian sausage is also delicious. You can also substitute chicken or turkey sausage.
I used uncooked bulk sausage in this recipe. If using uncooked link sausage, remove the casings before cooking. Pre-cooked sausage links can also be used. Slice the links into ½-inch pieces and cook until lightly browned on both sides.
Spinach can easily be substituted for kale. Other vegetable substitutions include leeks, asparagus, or broccoli.
Tips for making
- Cook the pasta in well-salted water. It's important to flavor the pasta itself. Do so by adding about two teaspoons of kosher salt to the pasta water.
- Reserve pasta water for the sauce. The pasta water is the base of the sauce. The starch in the pasta water combined with finely grated Parmesan cheese creates the perfect sauce for this pasta.
- While the pasta cooks, brown the sausage and prep the kale.
- Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for 3-4 days. This pasta reheats well. Microwave individual portions until warm throughout. Garnish with extra grated Parmesan.
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Orecchiette with Sausage and Kale
- 12 ounces orecchiette pasta
- 16 ounces hot Italian sausage or sweet Italian sausage
- 4 stalks kale stems removed and leaves chopped
- ⅔ cup parmesan cheese finely grated (approx. 2 ounces)
- salt and pepper to taste
- red pepper flakes optional
- Cook the pasta in well-salted water according to package directions, until al dente. Reserve 1-1½ cups of the pasta water before draining.
- Meanwhile, cook and crumble the sausage. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate, leaving 1-2 teaspoons of fat in the pan. Add the chopped kale to the pan along with ¼ cup of pasta water. Saute until wilted, approx. 4-5 minutes.
- Add the sausage back to the pan along with the pasta. Add the parmesan cheese and the reserved pasta water, starting with ½ cup, stirring to create the sauce. Add additional pasta water as necessary.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper (if needed). Add crushed red pepper flakes for extra heat if desired.
- Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.
Nutritional information is an estimate and will vary depending upon the exact amounts and specific ingredients used.
Author's note: This post was originally published in January 2019 and has been updated.