Orecchiette with Sausage and Kale: Simply Delicious

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by Jordan Danz & Clare Jacky

I work in the produce supply chain for my day job. Working for a third party company sourcing produce for major grocery store chains, you kind of feel a little like a chef. It is our responsibility to find the produce, arrange the transportation and make sure it arrives to the customer in good condition. The more we can simplify the process the easier and better it goes.

Similarly, on a daily basis, the chef is the third party between the grower, butcher or supplier and the consumer. It is the chef’s responsibility to find the ingredient and get it to the table in “good condition,” and — like the supply chain process — simplicity is key.

It is not necessary to have all kinds of bells and whistles to make delicious food. There is an idea that the more items you put in a dish, the better it will taste and the more impressive it will look, but in fact, there is no need to overwhelm food with all kinds of spices or sauces. The best food is usually the simplest. If there is too much going on in a recipe the individual ingredients get lost or muddled and cannot truly be appreciated. I like to know and see what is in my food and also enjoy tasting each item individually as well as in combination with the other ingredients.

The trick to a simple yet delicious dish is to pick one or two items to showcase, such as Brussels sprouts. Then decide what secondary ingredients bring out or play off the flavor in Brussels sprouts. In this case we will suggest garlic and crushed red pepper flakes. Next, determine the cooking method that will produce the desired texture or bring out even more flavor. I like to roast Brussels sprouts in the oven with the addition of olive oil and salt, which browns them up nicely and adds caramelized flavor. And there you have it! A simple and easy dish that does not overwhelm the senses, but accents the flavor of Brussels sprouts.

For the simple dish that I want to share with you today, I chose to showcase Italian sausage and kale. It’s a different version of a classic Italian pasta dish that doesn’t rely on a heavy or overpowering sauce. The sauce is created by combining the kale, sausage, oil and cheese with a little chicken stock and some pasta water. It is truly one of my all time favorite pastas. It is incredibly simple and packs a really flavorful and comforting punch.

Orecchiette with Sausage and Kale

1 lb orecchiette pasta

¾ lb. sweet Italian sausage

1 tbsp olive oil

1 bunch kale, ribs removed and chopped into 1 inch pieces

¼ cup chicken stock

1 tbsp butter

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt water and cook the pasta. Stir several times during cooking so the pasta does not stick together.

While pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet with olive oil. Break sausage into small chunks and cook over medium high heat until brown. While sausage is browning place kale in a bowl and massage for about 1 minute until kale softens (yes it sounds weird, but it honestly it makes all the difference. Massaging the kale helps break it down and gives it a creamier texture, I suggest not skipping this step). Once sausage is browned, lower the heat to medium and add the kale and chicken stock and stir.

Once pasta is cooked, save at least a cup of the pasta water and then drain the pasta. Immediately add the pasta to the pan with the sausage and kale. Add Parmesan cheese and butter and stir together. Add some of the pasta water as you stir to keep it moist and help bring everything together (you may not need to add all the pasta water you saved, just keep an eye for when it all comes together and you will know you have added the right amount).

Serve immediately with a little Parmesan sprinkled over the top.

Enjoy!

Jordan Danz and Clare Jacky are the co-editors of the food blog www.OurQueerDinner.wordpress.com, a collection of recipes and stories centered on their chosen family of friends in Minneapolis. They share a common love for food, family dinners and Saturday morning PBS cooking shows.