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. 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.
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.
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.
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