Pasta with ricotta cheese, sauteed Tuscan kale, cherry tomatoes and lots of love. Quick, satisfying weeknight dinner or side.
1/4 cup olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and diced
4 anchovy fillets, minced
2 bunches Tuscan kale, stemmed, cut or torn into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more for the pasta water
1 lb whole wheat elbow macaroni or pasta of your choice (see notes)
2 fat garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut into fourths
Juice of 1-2 lemons
1/2 cup finely shredded Parmigiano-reggiano
Optional- milk or half-n-half (see instructions)
1. Set a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. As you wait for it to come to a boil, saute the onions and anchovies together in the oil in a separate large pot or Dutch oven set over medium-low heat. Saute the onions and anchovies for about 15 minutes until they are soft and just beginning to brown (adjust the heat as needed), stirring occasionally.
2. As the onions and anchovies are cooking, fill a bowl with cold water, add the kale and swish it around to rinse it. When the onions and anchovies are ready, add the kale, dripping wet from the bowl, along with the salt. Stir to combine everything, put the lid askew and saute for 5-10 minutes until the kale is soft.
3. When the water is boiling, salt it well, add the pasta and cook to al dente. When the pasta is finished, reserve 1-2 cups of pasta water before straining.
4. When the kale has softened, add the garlic and red pepper and stir until the garlic is fragrant. Add the pasta, 1 cup of the pasta water, ricotta cheese and tomatoes. Stir to combine everything. If it seems dry, add more pasta water and/or milk or half-n-half as needed. Taste and add salt if needed.
5. Just before serving, turn off heat and add lemon juice to taste. Serve with Parmigiano cheese grated over each bowl.
I like whole wheat pasta for these one-bowl-meal type dishes, because it's so much more stick-to-the-ribs than white pasta. But if you are one of those people who really really prefers white pasta, go for it! It will be delicious either way.
The kale I used here goes by several names: lacinato kale, Tuscan kale or dinosaur kale. It's got a more subtle flavor and cooks a bit quicker than other varieties. If you don't have access to this type of kale, you can use whatever kale you have, but other varieties will require a longer cooking time, so plan accordingly. (And note, especially with the other varieties, you'll want to tear/cut the kale into small pieces to tenderize it and help it to cook more quickly and absorb the flavors of the dish.)
If you do opt for the whole-wheat pasta, this can serve as a quick, complete meal. I created this on a recent evening in a rush before my 13 year-old son had to jet out the door to soccer practice. He ate a large bowl and was satisfied to the point of *almost* being sluggish during practice. But to make it even more substantial, this would be great with some hunks of sausage or as a side dish with steak or grilled chicken. If you want to amp up the veggies, you could probably add another bunch of kale or some other green such as Swiss chard, and more tomatoes.
You can make a large batch and reheat the leftovers for lunch or a quick dinner the next day. Refrigerate in a covered container and add a splash of milk or water to reheat (reheats in the microwave beautifully). A fresh squeeze of lemon and sprinkling of Parmigiano at the end will make you think you are eating a freshly-made bowl of yum.