I’ll be honest. Kale isn’t one of my favorite vegetables, in and of itself. But it’s one of my favorite vegetables to grow — because it’s easy; it lasts in the garden forever; and it’s one food that I can pick fresh in the winter.
I decided to use some of my garden kale today, and I thought it would be nice in a simple Italian dish. My favorite kind of kale is an heirloom variety developed in Tuscany in the 1700s, and now known by many names. Cavolo nero — translation “black cabbage” — is the Italian name for it, which refers to its dark green leaves and the fact that kale is a kind of cabbage. It is also known in Italy as “laciniato” — roughly translated as “lacy” — which probably refers to the pattern of veins over the leaves. The misspelling of the word, Lacinato, has now become a standard name for it in English, as well as just Tuscan Kale.
I think it’s the most delicious, easy to cook, and most versatile kale, so that’s why I grow it more than other kinds. It’s not as cold hardy as curly varieties that were developed in northern Europe or Russia, but I live in a temperate climate, so my black cabbage has always survived the winters in Portland, and even become tastier when we get some frost and snow.
I was inspired by a recipe from Gourmet to do a brothy kale and sausage sauce with pasta. Unlike the magazine’s recipe, I included tomatoes in mine, mainly because my husband loves them, but also because one of the things from my garden that I like to can is whole tomatoes. It’s a great way to save a bit of summer for the winter. (Since we didn’t move into our new place in time for me to have a tomato garden this year, I used canned tomatoes from the store.) Another thing that I like about this recipe is that it reuses the water that the kale and pasta are cooked in to create the broth.
Simple to make, and warm and delicious on a cold day!
Tuscan Kale, Sausage, and Tomato Broth with Linguine
- 1/2 lb. organic Tuscan kale
- 28 oz. can of organic whole peeled tomatoes
- 3 tbsp. organic extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lb. mild Italian pork sausage meat
- fine sea salt
- 1/2 lb. organic linguine
- 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese
- black peppercorns for grinding
Submerge kale leaves in cold water in a sink to clean. Pull out each leaf and shake, then slice the leaf from the center stem with a chef’s knife. Compost stems or save in the freezer for making broth at another time. Chop leaves into large pieces.
Fish tomatoes out of the can and chop them into large pieces.
Warm up the olive oil in a 12″ heavy skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium heat. Add sausage meat, breaking into clumps and stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom of the pan.
While sausage cooks, nearly fill a medium pot with water, a couple of inches below the rim. Place the lid on the pot and bring the water to boil over high heat. Add a pinch of salt, then toss in chopped kale. Stir a bit to submerge kale, and let cook for about one minute.
Place a sieve or colander over a large bowl and pour water and kale into it. After kale has drained, return the water to the pot and the lidded pot to high heat again, to return it to a boil. Once sausage begins to brown, add kale to it, still stirring occasionally and scraping pan.
Break linguine into half and add to the boiling water. Cook pasta over medium heat, uncovered, until al dente, then drain over the bowl. Drizzle a little olive oil over linguine and stir it to keep it from sticking together.
Add chopped tomatoes to the sausage and kale, stirring until tomatoes are warm and the mixture is thick. Then add about two cups of reserved cooking water to make the sauce a brothy consistency.
Grate the Pecorino Romano cheese into the sauce and stir. Pour sauce over the linguine, and grind pepper over the dish and stir into it. Garnish portions with more cheese.