Even pirates need to eat their greens.
That’s the first thing you learn in piratry school. Right after the class on swashbuckling and before the tutorial on how to apply your temporary skull-and-crossbone tattoos.
I’ll have you know that I’m a terrible swashbuckler. But I’m actually quite an excellent temporary tattoo artist. That whole add water and wait thirty seconds business? I’ve got that down.
Pirates are a dying breed, you see. And so the powers that be can’t just let any and every pirate wannabe loose onto the water, only to come down with scurvy in five minutes because they forgot the importance of eating fruits and vegetables.
Besides. If you’re going to have to outwit comic book heroes such as Popeye. A man who, being the spinach-lover that he is, truly understands the power behind the leafy green vegetable. You’re going to need to step it up. Find your own superfood to stand behind.
This is where the almighty kale comes in. Not only is it the perfect vegetable for when you’re about to set sail on the high seas, but it’s also ideal for those who are just about to attend a Halloween party. Where there may or may not be a homemade ice luge. From which you may or may not take a few candy corn-infused shots of vodka.
I mean, I didn’t (mainly because I was running a 5 mile race two days later (i.e. today) and didn’t want to completely screw up the electrolyte balance in my body). But you might.
Lucky for you, I’ve got you covered. Kale is super rich in thiamine, a vitamin that alcohol tends to deplete from the body. So just have a big bowl of this pennette with kale ragu before you leave. (Which, trust me, is so absolutely delicious that you might even have two bowls.) And you’ll be good to go.
And if you also take the time to work on those swashbuckling skills? You’ll be golden. I should know. I have the fishnet stockings and the remnants of a few temporary tattoos to prove it.
This dish may seem quite simple to you, and it is. And so I think it’s really a testament to Batali’s genius that he can combine an onion, garlic, a leafy green, and some parmesan cheese in such a way that they taste like magic. After this, you’ll never have a problem eating your greens again. In fact, you might as well pick up double the amount of kale that you need for this. Because you’ll be making it again. Possibly the next day.
I added some winter squash to this because, well. That’s the kind of thing that I do (especially when I’m trying to cook up dishes for the 12 Weeks of Winter Squash!) But I bet it would also be great with some red bell pepper.
Pennette with Swiss Chard 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)
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.