Pasta with Lentils and Kale

May 31, 2011

I’m back after a month-long hiatus! Between going away on vacation (using up leftovers before going away) and cooking older recipes that I’ve already posted, I haven’t had anything really new to write about for the past couple weeks! Now that the weather has improved and we are going to the market regularly, I will try to get back on a regular schedule again.

I discovered this pasta dish last summer in my Gourmet Today cookbook when we received a bunch of Tuscan kale (sometimes called dinosaur kale) in our CSA box and I was looking for ways to use it. This immediately became one of our all-time favorite vegetarian pasta suppers because it is so incredibly delicious! The sweetness of the caramelized onions harmonizes in a perfect balance with the heartiness of the kale and lentils. Although it does take some time to caramelize the onions, don’t rush this step because the flavor that develops is crucial to the overall recipe. The directions for this dish have a lot of “meanwhile”s, so be sure to read through the whole recipe before you begin so you can get the longer-cooking-time items started first (like the onions) and you don’t have to wait around for them to finish cooking.

I can’t wait to get more Tuscan kale in my box this summer so that I can make more of this delicious pasta – it doesn’t last very long at our house!

Pasta with lentils and kale

Serves 6 as a main course


  • 1/2  cup small French green lentils
  • 2  cups water
  • Salt
  • 6  tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1  pound onions, chopped
  • 1 1/4  pounds Tuscan (dinosaur) kale
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1  pound rotini (corkscrew) pasta


  1. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Add onions and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, for one minute. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally (more frequently toward the end of cooking) until onions are soft and golden, about 30 minutes. Remove lid and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are golden-brown, 5-10 minutes more. (Do not rush this step, it is important for the onions to be caramelized to have the most flavor. They can be cooked up to 5 days ahead and kept refrigerated, reheated when needed.)
  2. While onions are cooking, combine lentils, water, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a 1 or 1 1/2 quart saucepan, bring to a simmer, and simmer, uncovered, until tender but not falling apart, 20-25 minutes; add more water as necessary to keep lentils barely covered. Remove from heat and season with additional salt if desired.
  3. Meanwhile, cut out and discard center ribs from kale. Bring 6 quarts water to a boil in a 7-8 quart pot and stir in 3 tablespoons salt. Stir in kale and boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 5-7 minutes. With tongs, transfer kale to a colander to drain, pressing lightly on kale. (Keep water at a boil.)
  4. Add pasta to pot of boiling water and cook until al dente. Reserve about 1 cup of pasta cooking liquid and drain pasta.
  5. Meanwhile, coarsely chop kale. Add to onions, along with lentils (including lentil cooking liquid), and simmer, stirring, for one minute. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Add pasta to lentil mixture and cook over high heat, tossing, for 1 minute, adding 1/3 cup pasta cooking water, or enough to keep pasta moist. Season with pepper and drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil.

One comment

  1. […] get mushy than brown lentils when cooked. I’ve used them many times in the fall when making pasta with lentils and kale (which quickly became one of my staple recipes), and I was happy to find another recipe that […]

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