When too many meetings and commitments has us cobbling together something on the run or skipping dinner entirely — neither very satisfying nor nourishing choices — at week’s end, we look forward to sitting down to a restorative bowl of pasta with kale and ricotta salata. Nothing more than fresh pasta dressed simply with an easily-assembled salad of nutrient-rich kale, this dish manages to be both indulgent and healthy at the same time.
Using raw kale as a base, its hearty flavor is tempered with the addition of sweet red onion and toasted pine nuts, and rounded out by the saltiness of the ricotta. Using lemon juice along with the zest brings all of these components into balance with a touch of brightness. Depending on what’s growing in the garden, I’ve made this with Lacinato, Red Russian or Siberian kales, or some combination of the three. Try to select younger leaves; alternatively, soaking the kale in cold water for about 30 minutes helps to tame the strong brassica flavor it sometimes takes on, just make sure the leaves are dry before chopping.
To keep the lightness in this dish, it’s best to use a fresh pasta. We’re enjoying trying out different ones from Valicenti Organico, and have had great success combining the kale with such flavors as Sriracha, carrot and dill, and hemp; here, we chose a seasonally-inspired garlic chive linguine. Kale as a salad is pleasing enough to stand on its own, and can be made more substantial with some cooked whole grains, such as farro or wheat berries, tossed in. A further variation is to add some fresh herbs, and spring mint is a current favorite. If ricotta salata isn’t available, feta can be used instead, or try making it yourself.
Linguine with Kale & Ricotta Salata
1 bunch kale, washed and dried, stems and center ribs removed (3/4 to 1 pound)
1 small red onion, sliced thinly
1 cup ricotta salata or feta, coarsely shredded (about 2 ounces)
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
Zest and juice from 1 organic lemon
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup good olive oil
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces garlic chive linguine, or other long pasta shape
– Chop the kale by first cutting it into thin slices, and then cutting the slices crosswise. Toss the chopped kale with the red onion, ricotta salata, and toasted pine nuts. Whisk the lemon zest and juice together with the olive oil and seasonings. Dress the kale salad, and season to taste, adding more lemon juice and olive oil if necessary.
– Cook the pasta; drain and slide it into a serving bowl. While the pasta is still warm, pile the kale salad on top and serve immediately.