From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...This is a wonderful dish for a meatless Monday or Lenten Friday. I know that kale is considered to be a superfood and that whole wheat pasta is better for my family than its paler counterparts, but when I make this dish I don't concentrate on its health benefits. I make it because it tastes so good. Nonetheless, it doesn't hurt to know why this dish is good for you. Like its cousins, broccoli and cauliflower, kale is a descendent of the wild cabbage and it has been eaten for centuries. There are several varieties of kale, each has a unique flavor and texture but all are packed with nutritional value and a boatload of fiber. Curly kale has ruffled leaves with a pungent, peppery flavor. The leaves of Tuscan kale are a dark bluish green and tastes delicately sweet. Ornamental kale is a newer cultivated species that is oftentimes referred to as salad savoy. Its leaves may either be green, white, or purple and have a mild flavor. All varieties of kale are rich in vitamins and minerals, but what really puts kale into the superfood category is its abundance of phytochemicals which are believed to help prevent cell damage, prevent cancer cell replication and decrease cholesterol levels. This pasta is relatively easy to prepare and if you have never used kale in a pasta sauce, I hope you'll give this recipe a try. The dish was originally developed for Gourmet magazine and it appeared again this summer in a special publication called Gourmet's Easy Dinners. Here's how the dish is made.
Whole Wheat Penne Pasta with Kale...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Gourmet's Easy Dinners
1-1/2 pounds kale, leaves torn from stem and center ribs (discard stems and ribs)
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and black pepper
1 pound whole-wheat penne
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut in pieces
1) Cook kale in a 6- to 8-quart pot of well-salted boiling water, uncovered until just tender, 4 to 8 minutes. Transfer kale with tongs to a colander; reserve cooking water. When kale is cool enough to handle lightly, squeeze to remove excess liquid, then chop into bite-size pieces. Return water to a boil for pasta.
2) Cook nuts in oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring, until golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to towels to drain. Cook garlic, onion, pepper flakes, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in remaining oil, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
3) Cook penne in boiling water until al dente. Reserve about 2 cups of pasta water, then drain pasta. Return pasta to empty pot; stir in cheese, butter, kale, onion mixture, 1 cup reserved pasta water, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook over low heat, stirring, 1 minute, moistening with additional pasta water if desired. Serve sprinkled with almonds and additional cheese. Yield: 6 servings.
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