I have received a ton of kale in my CSA box this winter and keep searching for new ways to use it. Evan and I both love pesto, so a Sausage and Kale Pesto sounded perfect. The sauce was delicious and can be used in other ways than coating pasta. Add a little less olive oil when processing the pesto to form a thicker sauce and this would make a great spread for slices of a baguette.
If you cannot find Tuscan Kale, you can substitute with the more common Curly Kale (though it has a bit more sweetness than Curly Kale). Tuscan Kale (Cavolo Nero, Lacinato Kale, Dinosaur Kale) is large and dark with a bumpy, wrinkled texture to the leaves. It is a wonderful source of vitamin K, vitamin A, and vitamin C. Kale’s peak season is mid-winter to early spring.
The pesto can be made up to 2 weeks ahead of time and refrigerated in an air tight container until ready to use.
You can use store-bought orecchiette or homemade. The grocery store here did not have any orecchiette and I didn’t have the time to go on a search for it, so I thought it was a great opportunity to make my own. If you buy them, just skip over the first part of the recipe for forming the pasta. You can also substitute with Conchiglie (shells), Gnocchetti (pasta shaped like gnocchi), Farfalle, or Rotini; a shape that can hold the bits of sausage with the pesto.
You can make the orecchiette ahead of time and place in a single layer on parchment lined baking sheet to freeze. Once frozen, they can be transferred to a large freezer bag. If you make more than the pound needed for the recipe, the remainder can be stored in the freezer as well.