A prophylactic to impending indulgence: pasta with greens

I’m girding my loins for the holidays. We have a great Christmas planned and it sounds like tons of fun. But even with all the fresh air and exercise my Minnesotan family will seek out, plenty of time will be spent sitting around noshing. My mother-in-law will bring delicious cured and smoked fishes, friends and neighbors will inundate the house with cookies and candy, and then there will be the actual meals.

I’m not complaining – it’s part of what the holidays are – but I have been purposefully keeping dinners simple. Last night, with greens and pasta, was no exception. 

Looking for simplicity at the table too? Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add more salt than you think you should. Drop in the leaves from a bunch of dino kale (the straight, very dark kind) and cook until they bend more than they did when you put them in. Use tongs or a slotted spoon or two forks to fish them all out and drain them. Now boil up 1/2 to 1 lb. of pasta depending on how hungry everyone is. Cook until just tender, scoop out about a cup of the pasta-cooking liquid, and drain. While the water come to a boil and things cook, thinly slice a few cloves of garlic (I use 4 – you may want more or less). Squeeze the excess water out of the kale and chop it.  Put the pot back on the stove and add a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add garlic and cook until just starting to look like it might turn golden. Add a handful of pine nuts, if you’re so inclined, and a sprinkle of red chile flakes, again, if that sounds appealing. Alternatively you could use a fresh chile, or add a filet or two of minced anchovy, or nothing at all. Really, it’s your dinner.

Add the greens and the cooking liquid and cook until liquid is reduced by about half. (FYI: If you have a cup of chicken broth on hand you can use that in place of the pasta-cooking liquid for extra flavor.) Stir in the noodles and cook until liquid is absorbed. Stir in as much grated parmesan, pecorino, or asiago as you’re inclined to add (I tend to stir in about 1/3 of a cup or so, one could certainly add more or leave it out entirely).  Sprinkle more of said cheese on each serving.

It’s a dinner that’s simple to make, simple to eat, simple to clean up (one pot, baby!). Enjoy.