Penne with Garlicy Kale and Feta

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So, this week’s cooking experiment was pasta with sauteed kale, adapted from Smitten Kitchen. That recipe calls for swiss chard and spaghetti; I used kale and penne. Not because I’ve got anything against swiss chard and spaghetti, but my grocery store apparently did. Not a sign of swiss chard anywhere! And penne was in my pantry, so, 2+2.

I cook pasta rather infrequently despite the fact that it’s versatile and inexpensive. It always tends to take longer to boil than I expect, and though I have no problem with large knives, hot ovens, spitting oil, or other potential kitchen hazards, something about boiling water makes me antsy. But I’m determined to tackle it this year – practice makes perfect (better) – after all. So today was a pasta day.

Ingredients:

1/3 cup olive oil
3/4-1lb penne
1 large bunch of kale, roughly chopped (~1lb)
1 head of garlic
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup crumbled feta
salt, black pepper, red pepper to taste

Pour olive oil into a large skillet and heat on medium. Chop garlic lengthwise, or crosswise, whichever is easier. (Leave them large enough that you’ll be able to get them out of the oil with a slotted spoon or spatula.) Add the garlic to the olive oil and cook for 3-4 minutes until the garlic softens and becomes golden. Scoop out onto a paper towel with aforementioned spoon or spatula and add the onion to the oil. Cook until it becomes soft and translucent, about 6 minutes on medium heat. Add the kale (I included the stems, cut lengthwise), and salt, pepper, and red pepper to the onions/oil. Add water and cook, covered, until the kale wilts. This will take 10-15 minutes on med-high as kale is a pretty sturdy green and can stand up to a lot of cooking.

In the meantime, cook the pasta in boiling water with a splash of olive oil to keep it from sticking together. Once the pasta’s al dente, the kale should also be nicely wilted and you should add the pasta to the pot with the kale. You can also add 1/2 cup of pasta water but it’s not necessary. Mix, top with feta, and enjoy! (If you’re a garliphile like me, you can also add some of the garlic from earlier. But it was the cool, salty bite of the feta made this dish. It both contrasted with and complimented the red pepper and garlic. Delish!)

This still took me longer than I expect pasta dishes to take. Having made this on a summer night though, without schoolwork pending, I think a timesaver would be to simply smash the garlic and let it simmer in the olive oil during the first step. The oil should still become infused with garlic, which is the point. So perhaps I’ll try that next time. I may also be under some sort of self-imposed misconception about how quickly (or not) pasta cooks. Only practice, practice, practice will tell.

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