When faced with a menu filled with delicious pasta options, I'll almost always go for the simplest options. I love spaghetti coated with nothing but cheese, pepper, and butter. I prescribe to the belief that there's almost nothing better than a perfect tomato sauce. And I love that classic Italian dish that involves some sort of al dente pasta mixed with a hearty combination of savory sausage and bitter green broccoli rabe. It's a true "bloke's" meal (at least, according to Jamie Oliver), and being the voracious eater that I am, I end up having it more often than I probably should.
When I tried to make it for my boyfriend and I one Sunday night, however, I found that the bitterness of the broccoli rabe overtook the flavor of the dish, and distracted from the delicious heat of the Eataly-made spicy sausage. The fact that the pasta was perfectly cooked with just the tiniest hint of bite left in the center, was also tragically overshadowed. (I happen to have a sixth sense for the exact second a batch of pasta should be dumped out quickly and dramatically into the waiting colander.) The recipe I used came from Cook's Illustrated, which usually doles out flawless recipes, which the writer has tested upwards of 60 times. And yet....overly bitter broccoli rabe. Thoroughly discouraged, I decided I would take a break from attempting to make that particular pasta dish and come back to it a few months later, perhaps when another recipe popped out at me and inspired me enough to weigh out another bunch of broccoli rabe.
Sometimes, though, fate intervenes in the form of another dark, leafy green that I had somehow forgotten all about. Kale, in all it's very slightly bitter glory is just as healthy and makes for a decidedly more mellow taste, allowing the fettucine and the sausage to really shine through. Perfect solution, at least until I can figure out how to tame my broccoli rabe into submission. xo
Fettucine with Sausage and Kale
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb hot Italian sausage, casings discarded and sausage crumbled (you can use turkey sausage here if you prefer)
1/2 lb kale, tough stems and center ribs discarded and leaves coarsely chopped
1/2 lb dried egg fettuccine
2/3 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano, plus additional for serving
Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then cook sausage, breaking up any lumps with a spoon, until browned, 5 to 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, blanch kale in a 6-quart pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, 5 minutes. Remove kale with a large sieve and drain. Return cooking water in pot to a boil, then cook pasta in boiling water, uncovered, until al dente. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain pasta in a colander.
While pasta cooks, add kale to sausage in skillet and sauté, stirring frequently, until just tender, about 5 minutes. Add broth, stirring and scraping up any brown bits from bottom of skillet, then add pasta and 1/2 cup reserved cooking water to skillet, tossing until combined. Stir in cheese and thin with additional cooking water if desired.
Serve immediately, with additional cheese on the side.