Orecchiette with Sausage and Kale Pesto

Orecchiette with Sausage and Kale Pesto (12 of 12)

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.

orecchietteThe 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.
Orecchiette with Sausage and Kale Pesto (11 of 12)

Orecchiette with Sausage and Kale Pesto

Prep Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

4-6 servings

Orecchiette with Sausage and Kale Pesto



6 ounces (170 grams) semolina

6 ounces (170 grams) all purpose flour

3/4-1 cup warm water

Sausage Kale Pesto:

3 cups (85 grams) Tuscan Kale, tough stems removed

1 cup (30 grams) fresh basil. stems removed

4 garlic cloves

1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts

1/2 cup (45 grams) Pecorino Romano cheese

~2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil plus 1 tablespoon, divided

1 pound (454 grams) dried orecchiette pasta

1 cup reserved pasta water

1 pound Italian sausage, casing removed

1/4 cup dry white wine

To make the orecchiette: In the bowl of a large food processor fitted with a dough blade or a large bowl, combine semolina and all purpose flour. Slowly pour the warm water into the center as you process or mix until dough comes together.

On a lightly floured surface, knead the pasta dough until smooth. Wrap in plastic or cover with a bowl for an hour.

On very lightly floured surface, divide the rested dough into 6 equal pieces. Keep one piece on work surface and cover the rest with a damp towel. Roll one piece into a rope until it is 1/4-1/2 inch thick. Use a dull dinner knife to cut a 1/4 inch piece of the rope, keeping the knife connected to the cutting board. Angle the knife outward to separate the piece of dough from the rope and push it towards the cutting board. Use the knife to drag the piece of dough away from the rope, using your finger to keep the dough pressed on the cutting board as you drag the knife across. Place the dragged piece of dough over your thumb, rough side out, to create a roundness and form the little ear. Repeat with the rest of the rope and remaining sections of dough. Place formed pasta on a baking sheet lined with parchment, mesh pasta drying rack, or a large kitchen towel lightly floured with semolina. Air dry for 30 minutes before boiling.

To make the sausage pesto: Fill a large pot with water. Place over high heat to bring to a boil. Fill a large bowl with heavily iced water and set nearby.

Add the kale to the boiling water for 15 seconds. Remove to colander to drain.

Add the basil to the boiling water just until wilted, about 5 seconds. Add to the ice bath, then remove and squeeze dry.

Cut garlic cloves in half and add to the boiling water for 15 seconds before placing in ice water.

Place the kale, basil, garlic, pine nuts, and cheese in food processor or blender. Process while slowly pouring in around 2/3 cup olive oil just until a smooth sauce forms.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add 1 pound of the dried orecchiette. Cook the pasta until they rise and are just tender, al dente. Set aside 1 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta. Toss with a little olive oil to prevent sticking while you prepare the sauce.

In a large pot (clean out the one you cooked the pasta in), drizzle about 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium high heat. Crumble in the sausages and cook, breaking apart with a spoon, until browned.

Pour in 2 cups of the pesto, then the white wine. Cook about 2 minutes before adding 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Toss in the pasta until combined. If the pesto is too thick, add the remaining pasta water. Serve immediately.

Orecchiette adapted from Making Artisan Pasta: How to Make a World of Handmade Noodles, Stuffed Pasta, Dumplings, and More

Sausage and Kale Pesto adapted from Tartine and Apron Strings


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Comments: 4

  1. Joanne 6 March, 2014 at 6:23 am Reply

    I love that you made the pasta from scratch! I’m sure that made the meal extra tasty.

    • Tara 6 March, 2014 at 7:34 am Reply

      Thanks, it does! I enjoy trying out different shapes. It is like play doh for adults :)

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