Hot Italian Sausage and Kale Ragu

Hot Italian Sausage and Kale Ragu with Penne

A bold and hearty recipe for pasta tossed with a hot Italian sausage and kale ragu. The ragu is made by pan-frying crumbled sausage with an abundant amount of onion and garlic and then slow cooking it with fresh, chopped kale leaves. Ricotta Salata or Parmesan is tossed in with the pasta to finish. With a short list of ingredients it’s fairly simple and incredibly delicious!

While kale has a reputation for being bitter, it’s really quite mild tasting and not all like broccoli rabe, which I find bitter to the point of inedible. It does have a tough, thick leaf which is why I massage olive oil into it ahead of time to help soften it.

One of the most important, enlightening things I’ve learned from writing this blog is this: if you think you don’t like something it’s often because you never had it prepared in a way that appeals to your taste buds. Take this kale, for instance. Three or four years ago I would of  turned up my nose at it. Today I embrace it. With it being high on the list of super foods it’s something I want in my life. But it’s not something I’m willing to force-feed myself for the sake of being healthy. I want it full of flavor. Palatable. My way. On my terms. 

Cooked up like this in big skillet full of sausage, onion and garlic, I daresay you would be hard-pressed to find someone who can resist its charms! As the kale wilts it soaks up all those intense flavors and melds itself right into the dish. Complex in flavor it manages to be not only hot and spicy but sweet and savory, earthy and salty all at the same time. Equal parts indulgent and healthy. A bowl full of love. And isn’t that what we all want?

Hot Italian Sausage and Kale Ragu with Penne

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Hot Italian Sausage and Kale Ragu with Penne
(by Reeni)(serves 5-6)

1 large bunch of fresh kale, stems removed, rough chopped in 1-inch pieces
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound hot Italian sausage, links or ground
1 large onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon sea or coarse ground kosher salt
12 ounces penne (like Barila whole-grain)
3/4 cup Ricotta Salata or fresh Parmesan, grated

1. Add the kale to a large mixing bowl and measure out 3 tablespoons of oil over top. Using your hands massage the oil into the kale until all the leaves are coated. Set aside.

2. If using links cut a line down the middle of each one lengthwise and remove from casings. In a large, deep-sided skillet saute sausage over medium heat crumbling apart as it cooks. Drain grease. Remove the sausage and set aside or push to the outer edges of the pan making a well in the center. Add 3 tablespoons oil along with the onions, saute over medium-low heat until translucent. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, then mix everything together.

3. Turn heat down to low. Pile the kale on top and put the lid on the pan. Cook for 25 minutes, stirring every five minutes.

4. At the 20 minute mark cook the penne to al dente according to package directions. Remove the lid from the kale mixture and cook for 5 more minutes. When pasta is cooked add 1/4 cup of the pasta water to the kale. Drain pasta. Add to the skillet along with the cheese. Mix well and continue to cook over low heat 3-4 minutes, stirring often.

5. Serve with crusty Italian bread and additional Parmesan cheese.

Printable Recipe
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Hot Italian Sausage and Kale Ragu with Penne

I’m sending this to Presto Pasta Nights hosted by Katie of Thyme For Cooking this week.

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