Sunday, January 23, 2011

Easy Lemon-Garlic Kale Pasta

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So I had planned to have a new post up for you last Thursday or Friday, or even Saturday at the latest...and now it's already Sunday!  Last week was busy and stressful for me, and life gave me my share of lemons.  So you know what they say: "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."  (Is it appropriate to add a number of vodka shots to that lemonade?) 

But lets be honest, no matter how many lemons life pummels you with, no man can survive on lemonade alone (even if it is spiked with alcohol).  So instead take your lemons and make an easy, healthy meal of Lemon-Garlic Kale Pasta.

This pasta relies on what I use as an old standby for weeknight meals: Plain boxed pasta dressed up with infused oil.  I try to have a box or two of Barilla pasta in the pantry for nights when I want a filling meal but don't feel like making pasta from scratch; however, boxed pasta with store-bought pasta sauce is a less-than-appetizing meal, on both a taste and nutritional level.  It is for this reason that I keep frozen homemade pasta sauce on hand, or that I make a sauce with high quality extra virgin olive oil infused with whatever strikes my fancy.  

In the case of this pasta dish, the oil is simply infused with minced garlic and lemons, and then the lemon flavor is reinforced by adding lemon slices, juice and zest to the final dish.  Now you might think that I am being all fancy-schmancy by saying that I am 'infusing' the oil, but really all you do is heat the oil over low-moderate heat in a skillet with the lemons and garlic.  Infused oil can also be made by just adding ingredients to a bottle of olive oil, but then it needs to sit for awhile to let the flavors leech out into the oil; adding heat on the stovetop just speeds up the process.  Either way, the infused flavor is not going to be extremely potent, but just enough to elevate the dish to delicious proportions.

Lemons simmering in extra virgin olive oil.  The oil should be the right moderate temperature so when you add the lemons it does not splatter.  

Now although a simple dish of pasta and lemon-garlic oil would be fabulous, I think it is important to sneak a little vegetable in there for good nutrition.  And when it comes to nutrition, Kale is king.  A member of the cabbage family, kale is rich in antioxidants, Vitamins C and K, beta carotene, iron, and also calcium.  It comes in several different varieties, but the type that I used (and am showing here in photos) is Dinosaur Kale (also known as Lacinato or Tuscan Kale).  Dinosaur kale is characterized by having a less 'curly' leaf than other kale varieties, a blue-green leaf color, and a surface that does look decidedly reptilian.     

Although I am obviously recommending that you eat kale - it has a delicious nutty flavor and is highly nutritious - I would also strongly recommend that you wash it well before cooking.  Kale is listed as one of the top 12 foods most contaminated by pesticides, so washing well before consuming is a must.  Think about buying organic kale to avoid this, but still wash well to remove any dirt.  

Glamour shot of a perfect water droplet!

I basically make this dish as a two-pot meal: I first cook the kale in a skillet, then remove it and set it aside until later, and I infuse the oil in the same skillet.  Then while I am infusing the oil, I cook the pasta in a separate pot.  And voila!  Even with prep, dinner is ready in 30-45 minutes.  

Part of the appeal of this dish is how quick and easy it is to make, but I also think it is great because the foundation is based on things most people have as pantry staples.  Just head out and buy yourself some kale, and you are ready to go.  If you can't find kale or don't really like it, you could also substitute chard leaves or spinach, but the subtle nutty flavor of the kale is really wonderful in this dish especially paired with the bright, tart lemons. 

Easy Lemon-Garlic Kale Pasta

1/4 tsp + 1 tsp minced garlic
3 cups packed kale, sliced into ribbons
1/2 box pasta of your choice (8 oz)
1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon, sliced in half lengthwise, then sliced into thin wedges
Zest and juice of one additional lemon

Extra olive oil for sauteing kale
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup pine nuts (optional)

Cook the kale: Add 1 tbsp olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium heat.  Add 1/4 tsp minced garlic and sautee for just a few minutes.  Then add kale and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally for about 5-8 minutes, or until kale is just softened.  (If you have cooked spinach before, the kale will not get as soft or 'wilted' as cooked spinach.  It is a thicker, more fibrous leaf so it will still keep some of its crunch or bite even when cooked.)  Use tongs or a spatula to transfer the cooked kale to a plate or bowl and set aside.  

Boil the pasta: Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the pasta.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer until pasta is al dente, about 10-14 minutes.

Heat and infuse the oil: While pasta is boiling, add 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil to the same skillet you cooked the kale in.  Heat the oil over low-medium heat, and then add 1 tsp minced garlic and one half of the sliced lemons.  Continue to heat and cook the oil, lemon, and garlic, for about 10 minutes.  Then strain the oil through a fine mesh sieve.

Toss pasta together: Drain the cooked pasta.  Return the pasta to the pot, toss together with the infused lemon-garlic oil, add remaining one half of the sliced lemons, lemon zest and lemon juice.  Toss together, add salt and pepper to taste, and top with pine nuts if you like.  Serve immediately.    


  1. Easy, healthy and flavorful! Yummy.



  2. Easy, delicious and a great way to use up the lemons life threw at you!

  3. loved the glamour shot of kale! good one- And your pasta is making me hungry!

  4. This looks so simply delicious and good for you! I love it! And I love the idea of infusing the oil with lemon slices. Beautiful! :-p

  5. What beautiful pasta! Simple is definitely the way to go with pasta. What more do you need beyond garlic, lemon, and kale?
    I didn't know about kale being prone to contamination. I do always wash mine!

  6. OMG. I've been looking for a simple and delicious recipe using kale since it came into season. Found it!

    Water droplet glamour shot... stunning!

  7. A beautiful, perfect recipe! Love the lemons, especially, totally brightens everything. Thanks for the tip on kales!

  8. What a great, easy recipe. Yummy, yummy kale.

  9. This sounds like an amazingly tasty, easy past dish. Pasta is a staple in our house (we eat it about once a week), so I'm always looking for new ideas. Thanks for sharing!

  10. You can imagine the quantity of pasta that I eat every week...hmm yes I still kept that habit despite living here. My hubby is happy about that and he will be even more happy now that I have new cool recipe! I love infused oil. It's amazing how a simple thing can give so much flavor to dishes. Hope this week is less busy Amanda!

  11. When life is throwing lemons at you go find the person life threw a bottle of vodka at and have a party.

    I can't wait to try this pasta. I love all things lemon flavored. It sounds like it will be a nice change from my standard weeknight pasta.

  12. What a bright and flavorful dish! This just might be tonight's dinner!

  13. I love simple, easy pasta meals like this. I practically live on them! I also always keep Barilla pasta well-stocked in my pantry--can't live without them. Great idea to infuse your oil with bright, lemony flavor. The garlic doesn't hurt either.

    Hope you have a better week this week!

  14. this looks wonderful! i love the infused oil and pasta idea and i'm always looking for a new way to use my favorite vegetable! i will definitely try this soon!

  15. Looks great and well with pinenuts, love.

  16. I have just not had enough kale in my life lately...and this super-simple recipe may be the solution! I LOVE the addition of pine nuts, too--they add so much flavor to whatever dish they're mixed into.

    I hope this week is better for you...and filled with much more lemonade (and lemon curd, and lemon bars, and other sweet lemon things) and just plain old lemons :)

  17. Love those glamour shots of the kale leaves with the water droplets! I've never seen kale look so sexy!

  18. What a lovely pasta. I love the ingredients you've used to sauce it and your plating is beautiful. A winner every which way :-). Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  19. I'm planting a lemon tree in my backyard this month.... this lemony pasta will be a hit!

  20. I just made this for dinner with the kale that was languishing in my fridge. So, so good. Thanks!

  21. Mmm...I love kale but have never tried it in pasta - this looks great! And lemon and garlic always taste wonderful mixed with pasta (especially with a little Parmesan cheese grated on top!) :)

  22. That is so pretty. I love all the flavors you've used, I can imagine them together. I am hungry just reading the post!

  23. Lovely flavors with lemon and garlic, a terrific healthy pasta with kale!

  24. Amanda,

    I think in honor of the australian open right now, you should do a recipe using vegemite. Most people probably don't know what it is or how to use it. It COULD be interesting and insightful...Just an idea, even though it sounds really gross to me.

  25. I was experimenting with lacinto/dinosaur kale last week. It was a recipe fail. Your recipe looks simply delicious. I like the idea of flavoring olive oil with fresh lemon slices. The photo of your pasta dish is beautiful.

  26. Deanna: This--> "When life is throwing lemons at you go find the person life threw a bottle of vodka at and have a party" is a fabulous idea. Do you have a bottle of vodka? ;)

    Anonymous: Fantastic, I am glad you liked it! Next time you make one of my recipes, snap a quick photo; I will be adding a folder on my new facebook page where readers can upload!

    Rush Williams: Honestly, you might just have inspired a genius idea for a new post.

  27. What lovely shots of the kale! I love pasta dishes like this which are quick, healthy and tasty! Thanks for visiting my blog! :)

  28. Love how easy and delicious this looks! We'd love for you to share this recipe at!

  29. I haven't gotten around to using kale in a pasta dish but this looks so easy and tasty that i simply must try it very soon!
    Btw, your pictures are stunninggggggg!

  30. Very, Very nice blog...wonderful photographs :)

  31. I love these flavors...and this dish looks delicious! Gorgeous photos as well :)

  32. liking the kale shots...a lot! Great recipe. I love lemons so this si rigt up my alley!

  33. what a bright colorful dish, love all the flavors you put in it.
    love those shots of the water drops. so perfect.

    have a wonderful weekend Amanda.

    p.s. sent you a foodbuzz friend request, hope you'll accept it. thanks

  34. i love lemon. esp right now when it seems spring will never arrive. i saved this to my online cookbook ( right away!

  35. This reminds me of the shrimp scampi pasta you put together in the cookbook from last christmas. Really love the combination of pasta and lemon - I'm sure I would enjoy this one as well.

  36. hi! i'm doing a project on cooking for my master's thesis in grad school, and would love to include this recipe as well as the gorgeous photo you took of the finished product. may i? proper credit will of course be given. let me know, thanks! - Tina

  37. Hi Tina! Of course you could include the recipe! Thanks for asking, and I hope your masters thesis will be fantastic. :)

  38. thank you! i really appreciate it :)

  39. What a great recipe. I will try it this weekend.

  40. looks good, I actually make fideo pasta with kale and leeks in soup, and it's really yummy

  41. This looks so simple and delicious. I have been looking for new ways to use kale and this definitely made my list. Thanks so much for the inspiration.

  42. I made this last night BUT with quinoa instead of pasta; browned little cubes of bacon, and sautéed the kale in a tiny bit of bacon fat. Reserved a bit of the bacon fat to use mixed with the olive oil when infusing the lemons & garlic, and then browned a few chopped cashes in the remaining grease in pan after cooking kale. Stirred the bacon bits, sautéed kale, browned cashews into the quinoa with the infused oil, lemon juice, lemon rind and browned garlic pieces. Sounds greasy, fatty; wasn’t. Delish. Sometimes you have to be creative to get your men to eat kale; bacon helps ;)

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