A spicy tomato and kale linguine of juicy sautéed tomatoes and kale. Customize it by adding your choice of protein or cheese!
Ah, pasta. Truly comfort food at its finest. When we went to Italy for the first time several years ago, I couldn’t get enough of the food. Everything was super fresh and full of flavor. The dishes were so simple with minimal ingredients. We came back to the U.S. spoiled! Trying to find similar dishes was difficult, especially when our Americanized version of Italian food is represented in restaurants like Olive Garden. 🙄 Not that the food there isn’t good on occasion, but full of heavy cream and loads of cheeses, it can be a little rich for an everyday meal.
When we came home from our trip, I scoured the internet for a simple pasta recipe and decided to try Ina Garten’s Spaghetti Aglio E Olio (garlic and olive oil). Over the years, it has slowly morphed into other dishes, as I now like to add a variety of veggies and flavors, like fresh tomatoes, lemon and basil.
This pasta is really just a simple “base” vegetarian dish, delicious as is, but you can also customize it to your liking. Use your favorite pasta, whether it’s gluten-free or whole wheat. It needn’t be only linguine either. If you prefer penne or spaghetti noodles, use that instead.
If you eat meat, then add in some chicken or shrimp. Sometimes I add some chicken sausage in with the garlic and sauté it with all the veggies, which adds a lot of flavor. You can also add cheese, if you eat dairy. I have a dairy sensitivity, so I can’t eat a lot of it, but my family loves shaved parmesan on top of theirs. I think some fresh mozzarella chunks would be delicious too!
I’ve found it important to season with salt and pepper throughout the cooking process. Seasoning throughout also helps your dish not to be bland and tasteless, especially if you’re not adding meat to bring in flavor. It’s a good idea to generously salt the water that you boil the pasta in too. It adds flavor to the pasta so that you don’t have to over-season the sauce later to compensate.
Cook the pasta to al dente, which is cooked but still a little firm—NOT mushy. When you drain the noodles, be sure to save a cup of the pasta water to add to the sauce later. The starchy water is already seasoned and helps to make the pasta more saucy and less watery. You can also substitute some of the pasta water with a splash of cooking wine for a richer flavor.
Such a simple, yet elegant dish. A perfect way to use up some of that spring/summer produce too! As they say in Italy, buon appetito!
- 12 ounces linguine or other pasta of choice and 1 cup reserved pasta water
- 2 tablespoons oil of choice or regular/dairy-free butter
- 6 cloves garlic, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
- 6 oz kale leaves, de-stemmed and roughly chopped, spinach, or other greens of choice
- 2 pints cherry/grape tomatoes, halved or chopped tomato
- ¼ - ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper, depending on how spicy you like it (optional)
- ½ - ¾ cup reserved pasta water, start with less and add more if needed-
- ¼ cup (or more) good quality extra-virgin olive oil,
- juice and zest of 1 lemon, add more or less to taste
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped (optional)
- plenty of salt and pepper, to taste
- Optional add-ins: If you eat cheese you can add grated parmesan or fresh mozzarella chunks. For protein you can add grilled chicken/shrimp or sautéed smoked chicken sausage*
- Cook pasta of choice according to package directions until al dente. Make sure to salt the water. Before draining, reserve 1 cup of the pasta water for the sauce. Drain pasta and set aside until needed.
- Meanwhile, in a large pot or dutch oven, melt 2 tablespoons of butter or oil over medium heat. Add chopped garlic and stir to coat. Add kale leaves and cook for 1 minute.
- Stir in tomatoes, salt, and a pinch of red pepper, continuing to cook until soft, about 4-5 minutes.
- Add cooked pasta, olive oil, lemon juice, chopped basil and some of the reserved pasta water. Season with more salt and pepper, to taste, and gently mix together until well incorporated. The noodles really soak up lots of moisture, so add extra pasta water as needed.
- Remove from heat and top with lots of grated parmesan and/or protein of choice. Serves 3–4.