I don’t know about you, but I am always in need of something quick during the week. And bonus points if it is packed with veggies I can shove down my kids’ throats, and double bonus if it’s packed with carbs I can shove down my own throat. This light and easy sun dried tomato and kale pasta dish is weeknight perfection.
What you’ll need for this sundried tomato and kale pasta.
That’s right I said meal. This sun dried tomato and kale pasta dish is really a whole meal on it’s own.
Orecchiette pasta. If you don’t have that or want to use something else, by all means go for it. But I am a person who thinks pasta size and shape matters in a dish, so I recommend something similar to orecchiette.
- Kale, lots of it. You are going to look at the measurements and be like ,’wtf,’ that is way too much kale. It’s really not, it cooks down so much, like spinach. Speaking of spinach, use it if you prefer it to kale. And I mean, kale is a super food packed with all kinds of good things, so might as well eat a shit ton.
- Sun dried tomatoes and roasted tomatoes. So I use both because I think it gives good texture and extra tomato sweetness is never a bad thing in my book.
- Garlic, a good amount. I have a trick that you can take or leave, but I am putting it here and not in the recipe, as I am aware not everybody has time for this or has it sitting around…roasted garlic. It has a softer, sweeter flavor. And when the garlic is main flavor profile (not an accent) as in this dish, less sharp is nice. Now do not get me wrong, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO USE ROASTED GARLIC. I don’t always, in fact, I probably don’t use it as often as I use raw minced garlic. But when I roast a head or two and have it in the fridge, I will always use the roasted in this dish, it is just more refined (or something like that.
- Lemon zest and juice. This dish is heavy on olive oil and screams for some acid, and nothing beats a good amount of lemon juice and the overall brightness that lemon zest gives.
- A good quality olive oil. I am calling this dish light and easy sun dried tomato and kale pasta because it has no heavy cream or anything weighing it down. And since the olive oil (and a little bit of pasta cooking water) are what give it a sort of ‘sauciness,’ don’t skimp on the olive oil and don’t substitute. I have two olive oils, one for cooking and one for finishing. The finishing olive oil is much more expensive, but you use it sparingly as it is much stronger in flavor. You want to taste that in every bite. But again, use what you have, just make sure it is an olive oil.
- Red pepper flakes. Cause every dish needs some spicy.
The recipe is meatless but you can easily amp up the protein. Add some chicken, Italian sausage or even some shrimp.
Why the pasta shape matters.
Obviously this is subjective. And by that I mean the shape. Whether the shape/size matters is not subjective – it absolutely matters. While I do think you should pick what is best for you (you’re the one eating it), here’s just a few things to consider:
This dish really has no sauce. It is basically lightly dressed with olive oil, garlic and veggies. We are not making a tomato sauce, or a sauce full of meat or an alfredo here. Meaning ridged or hollow shapes like penne rigate, or bucatini would not work well here.
There is a lot of wilted vegetable in this dish. I mean, when I finally shut the hell up and you get to the recipe, you’ll see the large amount of kale greens that will wilt. Trying to twirl up a long noodle with wilted greens clinging to it sounds annoying, so I don’t think a spaghetti or fettucine would work great here either.
Small shells would work. Similar to orecchiette small shells are a great options. Something petite and kind of dainty. The orecchiette so very nicely holds tiny pools of that delicious olive oil. It’s the perfect shape to me.
But like I said, pasta shape is subjective and I know some people have very strong opinions on this – which I would love to hear – so use what you like and take or leave my two cents.
Whatever you do, you are going to love this sun dried tomato and kale pasta, it is light, bright and a refreshing break from the heavy sauces of winter.
Light and easy sun dried tomato and kale pasta
- 3 bunches of kale chopped, or a 1-pound bag of chopped kale
- 1/2 cup julienned sun dried tomatoes
- 1/2 cup of oven roasted tomatoes see link above if you are unsure how to make these
- 4 cloves of garlic crushed or five cloves of roasted garlic smashed (it will be so soft, it will smash like butter)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes use your judgement, if you don't like spicy, then reduce
- zest and juice of one lemon
- 1 pound orecchiette pasta cooked in salted water, al dente
- 1/2 cup reserved pasta cooking water
- salt and pepper to taste
In a large sauté pan over medium heat, warm the 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add the kale to the pan and season with salt. Cook a few minutes until it begins to wilt and shrink in size. You may have to add the kale in batches, depending on the size of your pan. When the kale is wilted down to about half it's original size, add the red pepper flakes, both tomatoes and the garlic, season with a little more salt (if you think it needs it) and pepper. Cook about 7 more minutes until the kale continues to cook down and some of the water it gives off evaporates. Add the lemon zest and the cooked pasta. Stir to incorporate. Here is where you will begin to add the pasta water a little bit at a time. If you like a bit more liquid then use the entire 1/2 cup, if you prefer a drier pasta dish with a more olive oil kind of glaze, just use 1/4 cup. Continue cooking another couple minutes to incorporate everything together. Remove from heat and toss in the lemon juice and stir together. Plate to serve and drizzle with a finishing touch more olive oil. Parmesan or Pecorino are great finishes on this dish too.