You know those days when you really don’t feel like cooking anything but you also don’t want to spend $30 on some shitty take-out dinner that the kid won’t eat anyway because he actually just wanted Honey Nut Cheerios? Yeah. That. I was very tempted to have cereal for dinner too the first night I made this but I was feeling pretty guilty about letting food go to waste in the fridge. I remembered that I had kale from Bailey’s Local Foods. I also had some Enoki mushrooms that I’d bought to use for a different recipe that was more labour intensive. I was looking for something comforting and easy the first night I made this.
I have been ordering dino (black) kale from Bailey’s every week since making this just because I want to keep making this. I’m completely hooked. It reheats beautifully so it is excellent for lunch. I often make spagetti carbonara with kale or parsley but because of the egg, it doesn’t re-heat very nicely.
I’ve used garlic scapes for this because I have them. If you don’t have any then a clove of garlic will be lovely. I prefer the scapes because they give a more gentle garlic flavour that doesn’t leave you burping garlic the rest of the night.
If you are a little gun-shy of kale still then this is the perfect pasta dish to try. If you can’t find kale or plain just don’t want to try it, then substitute your favourite green instead. Spinach would work well and so would Swiss chard. The bacon and cream is absolutely key so don’t skimp on that. The mushrooms make the dish really filling. Make sure you keep back some of the pasta cooking water because the whole bulk of the liquid for the pasta sauce is cream and when you cook it with the kale it thickens up a bit. The extra pasta water really makes the sauce.
Serve with an abundance of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and the knowledge that you put together a kickass meal in 20 minutes that included kale. Oh, and wine. Don’t forget to pour yourself a huge glass of wine.
*Disclosure: my 3 year old would only eat pasta with butter and Parmesan cheese and would not even try this.
- 6 thin slices of pancetta
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 cups dry pasta, such as penne or rotini
- ¼ cup chopped garlic scapes (or 1 garlic clove)
- 150 g (5 oz) black/dino kale, washed (or one bunch)
- 300 g (10 oz) mixed mushrooms, such as Enoki or Cremini
- ¾ cup whipping (35% cream)
- 1-2 tbsp creme fraiche (optional)
- pinch chili flakes
- salt and pepper to taste
- ½ cup reserved pasta cooking water
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan for serving
- Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta
- Cut the pancetta into bite size pieces.
- In a large, deep sautee pan, fry the pancetta in the olive oil on a medium low heat until crispy. While that starts to fry, chop the garlic scapes (or garlic) and mushrooms.
- When the water is boiling, salt the water well and add the dry pasta. Cook according to package instructions.*
- Slice the thick spine off the kale by folding the leaf in half along the spine to expose it and slice down. Stack several leaves together and roll the leaves up into a short, fat cigar to chiffonade it. To create shorter pieces that are easier to eat you can also slice the rolled up leaves in half lengthwise and then chop the two halves into strips.
- When the pancetta is crispy turn up the heat to medium and add the mushrooms and garlic scapes. Let the scapes cook for 5 minutes. Add a splash more olive oil if needed to get the mushrooms coated so they fry nicely. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.
- When the mushrooms have cooked down add the kale. Stir the kale with a spatula around the pan so that it can wilt. This will take about 1 minute.
- When the kale is wilted add the salt, pepper, chili flakes, cream and creme fraiche (if using) . Stir to combine. Let it simmer for another minute and then turn off the heat.
- Before draining the pasta, take about a cup of the pasta water out with a measuring cup.
- When pasta is cooked al dente, drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the kale, mushrooms and sauce.
- Stir it around so that all the pasta gets lightly coated with the sauce. Add some of the pasta water ¼ cup at a time until you get the desired consistency of the sauce. It is not a runny sauce that pools on the bottom of the pan. It should be sticking to the pasta and kale so don't add too much water. You will likely only need ½ cup but it is better to have a little extra on hand.
- Serve with a generous amount of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.