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.

Happy Halloween!


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)
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 am submitting this to Presto Pasta Nights, which is being hosted by Ruth of Once Upon A Feast.  I am also submitting it to Chaya’s Meatless Mondays!


You are reading this post on Eats Well With Others at https://joanne-eatswellwithothers.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of Eats Well With Others. All rights reserved by Joanne Bruno.
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94 Responses to Mario Batali’s Pennette with Kale Ragu

  1. Vivienne says:

    Looks like I’ll need to introduce those leafy greens to my diet soon! Looks so hearty and delicious…hmmm. I’d prob half the butter like you too 😉

  2. Simply Life says:

    ooooh, I bet I could get my husband to eat more greens with this one! 🙂

  3. Beth says:

    How did I miss piracy school? This recipe looks great and, landlubber or not, I’ll give it a try!

  4. Pam says:

    I have two bunches of kale in my fridge! And those are some beautiful bread crumbs matey.

  5. LOL, by the way i used to have a huge ,satin blue Popeye pillow with a red satin trim till my doggie decided he loved it more, dats as far as i went , though i so muc do love spinach too!
    I rember u were doing 12 weeks of squash last winter too and u came up with terrific deliciousness!!
    Well this one is gorgeously excitn too and i cant wait to find some squash too!
    Or wait how about Pumpkin galore?

  6. I have yet to get on the kale bandwagon Joanne, but this is pretty tempting.

  7. Raina says:

    Just the kind of dish I like, healthy and easy to prepare. Sounds great! There will be no mutiny on my ship, if I prepare this..lol

    (Funny because mutiny was one of my daughter’s vocab words this week.)

    Good luck on your race today:)

  8. janet says:

    Prefect timing, Joanne! I just bought a HUGE bunch of kale but just needed 1 leaf for my recipe needing 4 cups… I needed to find LOTS of recipes to finish the rest of the 10 or so leaves. 😉

    I love the tidbit about thiamine and EtOH. 🙂

  9. Amy says:

    I think I’m the only foodie around that doesn’t love kale. I’m beginning to think there’s something wrong with me. So, you’ve given me a complex on Halloween. Way to go, Joanne 😉

    Nice choice on being a pirate! Promise to wear an eye patch and say things like “GAAARRR” all night long?

    For the record, I taught my kids how to count by using temporary tattoos. True story. Every parent should try it.

  10. Chris says:

    Brett (21 y/o) went to a costume party dressed as Tigger (a 6’4″ Tigger at that) last night and he dragged in the door at 6:30 this morning. I suspect candy corn vodka shots may have been involved.

    The rich leafy greens always seem boring to me but not this one, you and Mario made it appealing. Great looking pasta dish, Joanne.

  11. arr me matey, looks grrreat!

    but seriously – just discovered your blog (where have i been?!) and i LOVE it. the stories, the food, the wonderful pictures – you’ve got something great here and i’m inspired. keep it up!

  12. MMM I love kale…. now I think I’m going to pick some up at the store. This recipe sounds too delicious.

    Hope you had fun at your Halloween party 🙂

  13. Kelsey says:

    can we find a way to serve this to all the trick or treaters for dinner before they go out and rot their teeth? YUMMMMIES!!! <3

  14. elra says:

    Kale and Swiss chard are my favorite winer green. Your penne sounds healthy and delicious Joanne.

  15. I cant say abt Pirates, but I m sure a distant cousin of Popeye…can et spinach or any leafy veggie in any form 🙂 This pasta looks so beautiful, healthy and comforting for brunch…Lovely shots

  16. Lori says:

    Love your substitution here! I’ve been on a kale kick this week so this fits nicely. Looks great!

  17. Stella says:

    This is a beautiful plate of pasta, Joanne. You know, I’ve always noticed that you make the best pastas-it seems like it at least when I run through your posts. Oh, and I didn’t know that kale is high in thiamin-that’s interesting. I’ll remember that next time I decide to inebriate myself. I don’t do that often, but it admittedly accidentally happens every once in a while;)
    Happy Halloween!!

  18. Kristen says:

    Looks delicious…I don’t know if I could get my band of scurvy men to eat it, but it’s worth a try. Some pirates are beyond redemption.

  19. Catherine says:

    Looks simply scrumptious Joanne! Happy Halloween!!!
    Hugs & Blessings~

  20. Swathi says:

    Looks delicious Joanne, Happy Halloween.

  21. Faith says:

    There’s nothing better than a big warm dish of pasta! I love the magic that happens when you take a few really quality ingredients and combine them.

  22. Katerina says:

    Pasta is such a versatile meal. You just have to let your imagination guide you. This dish is hearty and healthy with all this kale.

  23. That Girl says:

    I love kale, but frankly I’m a little concerned. You see, I’m pretty sure Popeye never ran in to pirates.

  24. Ameena says:

    Is this what you are going to make me when I come visit you? Just saying….I certainly wouldn’t turn it down…

  25. Shannon says:

    This looks SO yummy. I need to try kale… I’m sure I’d love it.

    Also, candy corn infused vodka sounds ahhhmaazing. Sure beats the Rolling Rock keg beer we had at our party.

  26. Julie says:

    okay so i need to bookmark the blondie recipe. those sound AMAZING and i’m totally gonna try them for thanksgiving 🙂

    i’m all about your current use of pumpkin and swiss chard…i mean kale.. 😉

  27. Julie says:

    I hope the run went well!! This looks delicious. I wish I liked kale. I know it’s so good for you but I don’t care for the flavor. Although, I think I’ve had it more raw than cooked.

  28. Hey.. you’re back running, good for you. All healed???

  29. I like kale better than chard too. This looks awesome. Too bad my family aren’t pirates, they would never touch this! Me, I would in a second. Arrrrgh!

  30. =( I know I know, I should eat more greens =P

  31. Fabulous, as usual. So glad you are going to link this up at My Meatless Mondays. Another great addition, for us. I have it up so any time is fine. Hint.

    You really should write a cookbook. You are a natural.

  32. Dana says:

    That top picture is so beautiful! My kind of dish and I would have added the squash to it too. I was just at the farmers market totally smitten with types of squash I didn’t even know existed and I didn’t buy any. Wah! I would have made this dish this week for sure.

  33. tigerfish says:

    I have not cooked kale this way before. I have added them to my pasta in other ways though. I would say the last touch of bread crumbs over the pasta gives it a completely different texture.

  34. Elizabeth says:

    I love Kale. This looks like a great way to eat it. Though, to be fair, I think I would probably eat most things if you whip them up with garlic and pasta.

  35. OohLookBel says:

    That breadcrumby pasta looks so good! Mario Batali is not that well-known over here (except on pay TV), but I do like his recipes. This one’s a winner!

  36. This dish looks great — and though I’ve never experienced kale, I’m anxious to try it. Pirates, like kitty cats, zombies, little demons, and many others, all need their dark leafy greens! 🙂

  37. This looks devine!!!! Great way to get great vitamins!! ~LeslieMichele

  38. Oh the textures and all of these wonderful ingredients! I’m just drooling! I love pasta dishes like this.

  39. Reeni says:

    I have a huge bag of kale in my fridge right now – you’re timing is impeccable! And I love that you added squash. I’m also in love with bread crumbs over pasta – it just gives it a little extra oomph.

    I made a cake for regional recipes – I’ll e-mail you in the morning. Happy Halloween!

  40. Debinhawaii says:

    Toasted breadcrumbs, pasta, kale and squash–what’s not love?! It looks delicious for pirates and anyone else. 😉

  41. Eliana says:

    Now I am not really into kale but I think this dish could make me change my mind. It seriously looks awesome.

  42. Monet says:

    I used to watch Mario while working out in the morning during high school. I would be sweating away on the treadmill and dreaming about all the delicious food I was going to cook for dinner! This pasta dish looks like a real winner. I hope you enjoyed your weekend…I know many of my friends in Austin did! I should send them a bag of kale to ward of hangover yuckiness. Thanks for sharing love.

  43. Ay matey! Happy Halloween to you! We’ve only used kale once, but it’s so good. The bitterness of it is actually really pleasant. And this is a new way to use it!

  44. Kale and penne…I love the combination. And yours looks extremely tempting! Great shots!

  45. You make the words “kale” and “ragu” seem like they belong in the same sentence. Is there no end to your lusciousness?

  46. Danny says:

    Wow! this dish looks amazing! 10/10 for the photography as well! 🙂

  47. Donna-FFW says:

    This sounds so delicious!! The talk of pirates makes me frisky.hahaha

  48. A bowl of goodness! I love the addition of bread crumbs! Crunchy pasta sounds really innovative 🙂

  49. Johanna GGG says:

    Am sure Captain Cook would love this – not a pirate but I think he was very keen on preventing scurvy. (Things you learn at school) I am even more sure I would love this if I can find any kale

  50. Rosabela says:

    This looks and sounds amazing! My mouth is watering just looking at the photos. 🙂

  51. Shannon says:

    definitely making this… and soon!!

  52. pajamachef says:

    i love the use of kale in this dish! yum!!!

  53. Sarah S. says:

    Haha! Ice luge.. don’t see those nearly often enough. However delicata squash and kale is something I do see quite often these days, two things I’ll never tire of!

  54. claire says:

    arghhh me mate…. haha i love kale… this looks great!

  55. I always thought I didn’t like kale, but looking at your photographs, I think I may be wrong!! The recipe sounds wonderful!

  56. Pam says:

    I only use kale in soup and I am not sure why… this pasta looks hearty, healthy, and tasty. Love it!

  57. Mo Diva says:

    i love everything about this! It is the simplest things in life that are so wnderful!
    I am making something very simialr for dinner tonight! looks amazing.

  58. Loved your tongue in cheek take on this one. It does look really delicious- I will need to get some of these!

  59. Barbara says:

    My daughter loves kale, Joanne…I am not quite as enthusiastic.She’s been trying to convert me. No luck so far.
    However, with pasta, cheese and that lovely crumb on top, I might be tempted!

  60. theUngourmet says:

    I bet you made the perfect pirate! Arrr! Kale be good! 🙂

  61. Emily says:

    I stumbled upon your blog while searching for recipes online, and I must say, I’m positively smitten! I am going to try out this recipe this weekend. Thanks for the inspiration!

  62. I need to run out and get some kale to replenish some thiamine after the wedding we were at this past weekend! This sound great, Joanne, and I’ll bet it would be great with spinach too.

  63. Dawn says:

    I saw when you tweeted the name of this recipe and read it to my hubby…I LOOOOVE kale. This might be one of my camping recipes for this weekend if my kale will last that long!

  64. Kale is so trendy now isn’t it! But I’m glad it is! This dish sounds delicious!

  65. lovely recipe great way to get greens

  66. Kim says:

    Laughing at Donna’s comment 🙂

    I’m so glad that you made this recipe and added your own twist to it. It was delicious with the greens alone, but would be extra delicious with the butternut squash!

  67. Sometimes it’s surprising what amazing flavors can come from the combination of a few simple ingredients. And I think your addition of squash is brilliant–I’m sure it does wonders for the flavor, but the splash of orange among the green makes the dish look much more attractive than if it were just a pile of greens.

  68. Deborah says:

    I’ve only ever used kale in soups before, but this looks absolutely delicious!

  69. Victoria K. says:

    Traditional Italian food is meant to be simple, and this certainly is a simple straight-to-the-point comforting pasta dish. I personally love my greens, so I would happily take a couple bowls of this 🙂 Oh, and yes, when you not in the middle of exams, running a race, etc, let’s get together again!

  70. Marjie says:

    I’ve made penne with kale and tomatoes, and it is delicious! I’m not fond of kale solo, but mixed with pasta it’s outstanding (and a good way to get extra nutrients into small pirates after trick or treating)!

  71. Joanne ~ I got off the computer and made this right away!! Awesome!!! I have included a link (a couple of them) back to you for full credit for it’s fabulousness. Yes, “fabulousness” is now officially a word! You can take credit for that too! ~LeslieMichele

  72. Oh boy. I am a weird gal but I get really excited over kale. Love Batali and love this recipe.

  73. Rachana says:

    This looks simply scrumptious, Joanne. Happy Halloween!!!

  74. RamblingTart says:

    Mmm, I love kale so much, Joanne. 🙂 My Mum has HEAPS of it in her garden and we’ve been trying to come up with new ways to use it. This looks marvelous. 🙂

  75. aipi says:

    pasta is well liked n my family, have tried many variations.this is another one I could try!
    Happy Halloween!

    US Masala

  76. Little Inbox says:

    Happy Halloween to you! A nice pasta that you’ve whipped up with healthy ingredients.

  77. Your twelve weeks of winter squash cracks me up. I’m loving this dish for its simplicity and its obvious delicious factor. I hope your race went well! I’m coming up in a couple weeks for a few days. Make yourself available!

  78. This dish sounds really good with the squash and kale. Kale is pretty new to me but we really like it in the caldo verde soup I made. I’ll have to give this a try.

  79. This looks really good – I feel like Kale is everywhere lately and I like it. Must try it – definitely prefer it to a swiss chard I think!!

  80. Agreed, pirates do need their greens and since said greens are so good go you and full of iron well, then, no hesitation! Great pasta dish! yum!

  81. Elizabeth says:

    Killer kale recipe. Nice!! I crave kale, especially after overdoing the Hallowe’en candy this weekend. Your maritime theme evokes Melville: Captain Ahab and the Killer Kale. Yo-ho-ho . . .

  82. grace says:

    i can’t help but think of jack sparrow when pirates are mentioned, which means i always think of them as zany and gorgeous. needless to say, i love pirates. also loving this dish, joanne–kale is so underused!

  83. bleeb129 says:

    i am falling in love with your blog. keep it up love your writing style and great healthy recipes

  84. I like that you substituted Kale in this recipe. I’m a huge fan of Kale…

  85. sweetlife says:

    a perfect dish for pirates, even goblins…yummy,


  86. OK, you have totally, completely outdone yourself. You had me at “short ribs, but this is OUTSTANDING. Mouthwatering (and great pictures!!)

  87. Kerstin says:

    Happy Halloween – glad you had fun 🙂 I like spinach and squash together so this kale ragu sounds right up my alley – yum!

  88. Ruth Daniels says:

    Pirates or no, this is one great dish. Thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights.

  89. Nutmeg Nanny says:

    I’m loving this meal! The crunchy bits are calling my name…

  90. Mmmm, this looks really good! I’ve been looking for a way to use delicata squash… and I think I found it! Thanks for sharing!

    Also, thanks for commenting on my blog! I’m glad I discovered yours – loving the photos and healthy recipes!

  91. Ooo those fried breadcrumbs on top are brilliant!

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