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 a couple of years ago, I couldn’t get enough of the food. It was super fresh and full of flavor. It was also unlike most of the pasta dishes I was accustom to eating in America.
Growing up, the only Italian dishes I had ever known was spaghetti with meat sauce and lasagna. There’s nothing wrong with the classics, but sometimes I just want a simple bowl of pasta that’s light and flavorful. It also wouldn’t hurt if it contained some fresh, seasonal veggies!
I’ve been making this garlic and olive oil pasta for years, inspired by Ina Garten’s Spaghetti Aglio E Olio (garlic and olive oil) recipe. This dish has slowly morphed into other dishes, as I now like to add a variety of veggies and flavors, like lemon and basil.
I also don’t use Ina’s method of frying the garlic in olive oil, but I add the olive oil at the very end. I’ve heard it said that extra virgin olive oil should not be used for cooking, because the beneficial nutrients begin to degrade and harmful compounds can form. Cooking with olive oil is something I’ve always done since it’s the oil many celebrity chefs recommend and use themselves when cooking. They should know what they’re doing, right?!
Well, regardless of which side you’re on, most of us can agree that extra virgin olive oil is a heart-healthy fat that contains many nutritional benefits, which are at their maximum when consumed raw.
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 chucks 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.
- 16 ounces linguine or other pasta of choice and 1 cup reserved pasta water
- 2 tablespoons butter/ghee or oil of choice
- 6 cloves garlic, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
- 5 packed cups of clean kale leaves, de-stemmed and roughly chopped
- 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved (10 oz. package) or chopped tomato
- ¼ - ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper, depending on how spicy you like it
- ½ - ¾ cup reserved pasta water, start with less and add more if needed
- ⅓ cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil
- juice of 1-2 lemons, to taste
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
- plenty of salt and pepper, to taste
- Optional add-ins: If you eat cheese you can add shaved parmesan or fresh mozzarella chunks. For protein you can add grilled chicken, shrimp, or sliced pancetta.*
- 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.
- 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 cleaned, chopped kale leaves and cook for 1 minute, stirring often, to begin wilting. Add tomatoes, salt, and red pepper and continue to cook until soft, about 4-5 minutes. Add ½ cup pasta water and heat thoroughly.
- Add cooked pasta, olive oil, lemon juice, and chopped basil. 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, if needed. Makes 4-5 servings.