Fusilli with Crispy Kale and Ricotta
This hearty comfort-food recipe has lots of options: Try roasted broccoli rabe in place of the kale for a different flavor, or leave out the the sausage for a vegetarian-friendly entrée.
- 1 pound cavolo nero (also called black, Tuscan, dinosaur or lacinato kale) or curly kale, stemmed, washed and dried
- About 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- Salt and pepper
- 1 pound short or long fusilli pasta or curly spaghetti (look for an imported Italian pasta)
- 1 pound hot or sweet italian bulk sausage (optional)
- 3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 small italian red cherry chili pepper or 1 Fresno chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped
- About 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
- A couple of small sprigs rosemary, finely chopped
- About 1 1/2 cups fresh sheep’s- or cow’s-milk ricotta cheese
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- Shaved Pecorino Romano cheese
Pre-heat the oven to 400°F. Dress the kale lightly with a couple of tablespoons EVOO; season with salt and pepper. Arrange the kale on two baking sheets and bake for about 15 minutes, rotating and switching the pans midway through.
Bring a pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and return the pasta to the pot, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.
Once the pasta water is boiling, if using the sausage, in a large skillet, drizzle 1 tablespoon EVOO over medium-high heat. Add the sausage, crumbling the meat, and cook until browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a plate. If you’re skipping the sausage, heat the skillet to medium. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons EVOO to the skillet , a couple of turns of the pan, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the garlic and chili pepper to the skillet and stir for a couple of minutes. Stir in the thyme and rosemary.
Whisk the reserved pasta cooking water into the garlic-chili oil, then pour it over the pasta. Add half of the crispy kale, the sausage (if using), ricotta and some nutmeg; toss vigorously to coat the pasta. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, to taste. Serve in shallow bowls and top with the Pecorino Romano cheese and piles of the remaining crispy kale.