This spicy pasta with kale & almonds is a quick and healthy pasta dish with Sicilian flavor. It’s a great way to use kale, one of the most powerful antioxidant, cancer-fighting greens out there. Tomatoes add lycopene, while almonds add amygdalin, two more cancer fighters. Try using different types of kale for this dish, like lacinato, Russian, or curly — or even spinach for something more readily available. If you do choose spinach, you will not need to pre-cook it, but just add it in raw in step 3. The Parmesan cheese is optional here. Toasted breadcrumbs were often substituted in traditional southern Italian cooking, since Parmesan cheese was an expensive luxury.
1. Put water for the pasta on to boil. Dry toast the almonds in a heavy frying pan until they are just golden. Set aside.
2. When the water is boiling, add salt. Add the kale and cook until it wilts, about 2 minutes. Remove with tongs and squeeze out as much water as possible in a colander. Chop roughly and set aside. Bring the water to a boil again for the pasta. Add the pasta and cook for 1 minute less than the time given on the package. Reserve 2 cups of water and drain.
3. While pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a wok or wide, heavy frying pan over a medium-high flame. Add the garlic and dried chili. Stir-fry until the garlic is just golden; if the garlic is browning too fast, turn down the heat.
4. While the pasta is cooking, add the cooked kale to the garlic and sauté for 1 minute over a medium-high flame to heat through. Add the tomatoes and cook until they have reduced by half. Add ¼ cup of the pasta water and raisins. Cook for 1 minute, then add the toasted almonds. Add more pasta water as necessary — the sauce shouldn’t dry out but shouldn’t be too watery, either. Add the mint, parsley, and grated Parmesan to the kale, and mix well. Add a grind or two of black pepper and taste for salt.
5. Add the drained pasta plus half of the reserved water. Turn to mix until the pasta and greens are coated in sauce and cook over medium-high heat until the pasta is al dente, about 1 minute. The pasta will absorb the sauce as it finishes cooking. If necessary, add more of the reserved water as you cook.
6. Serve immediately with some freshly grated Parmesan or breadcrumbs.
- 2 tablespoons slivered almonds
- 4 ounces Whole wheat penne pasta
- 1 large bunch kale, well washed, tough stems stripped from the leaves and discarded
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 to 2 cloves garlic, smashed, peeled and sliced lengthwise
- 1 small dried red chili pepper, broken into large pieces, seeds and veins removed
- ⅔ cup diced tomatoes, canned or fresh
- 1 tablespoon golden raisins, soaked in warm water until plump then drained (optional)
- 2 1/2 tablespoons fresh chopped Italian parsley
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped mint (optional)
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese or breadcrumbs
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Ann's Tips and Tricks
When upping the quantities, remember kale wilts and shrinks when cooked; use 1 bunch for 2-3 people. The dish should end up being roughly half greens and half pasta.
If scaling the dish upwards, allow 2 ounces of pasta per person.
If you don’t like your food too spicy, use only half a hot pepper.