Cooking The Italian Way – Pennette with Kale Ragu

I’ve got your back.

You see.  I’ve made this pasta dish.  And it has something green in it.

Now, I know I know I know how you feel about green especially in food form.  But this so totally does not taste green.

Oh no no no.  It tastes salty with a hint of sweet from the butternut squash.  The crunch of the breadcrumbs contrasting so nicely with the silky smooth pasta.

So good that you might even think for a second that it’s bad for you.  That maybe you shouldn’t be eating it morning, noon and night for weeks on end. 

Au contraire.  I wouldn’t do that to you.  Not this close to the holiday season, anyway.  We’ve got pants to fit in and half marathons to run and, to be frank, I’d rather not be responsible for any clogged arteries this year.  (Unless they belong to anyone who eats whatever dessert I make for Christmas.  My bad.)

So please, please.  Eat this.  You will radiate with virtuosity if you do.

Pennette with Kale Ragu
Serves 4-6, adapted from Batali’s Molto Gusto

1 delicata squash, diced and roasted in a 450 degree oven for 40 minutes (I added this)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small white onion, halved and sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 bunches kale or swiss chard (about 1 lb), stemmed and cut into thin strips
Maldon or other flaky sea salt
2 tbsp butter (Mario calls for 4)
kosher salt
1 lb pennette or any penne-like pasta
1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano (Mario calls for 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs fried in 1 tbsp olive oil until golden brown

1. Set the squash up to roast as instructed above.

2. Combine the olive oil, onion, garlic, and kale in a large pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion and chard are beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.  Season well with sea salt.  Add 1/4 cup water, cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes or until the kale is very tender.

3. Add the winter squash to the pot with the kale.  Add the butter, stirring until it melts.  Season with pepper and remove from the heat.

4. Around step 2, set up a pot of water with about 6 qts of water in it to boil.  Mix in 3 tbsp salt.  bring to a boil.  Cook the pasta.

5. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water when you do so.  Add the pasta and 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water to the kale ragu.  Toss over medium heat until the pasta is well coated.  Add more water if necessary to loosen the sauce.  Mix in the parmigiano-reggiano.

6. Transfer the pasta to serving bowls and sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top.


I radiate with a lot of things already but that’s because I live just a few miles away from our nation’s nuclear weapons fuel stockpile. Regardless, this looks great and I’d dive right in. Great job, Joanne.