Kale, that dark and leafy vegetable that bears at least a passing resemblance to spinach, was not something I grew up eating.
My parents, to this day I am sure, have never purchased it and never ordered it in a restaurant. I would have been very content to leave it out of my life too, and to continue believing in its supposedly unappealing nature, if is was not for food blogs.
It’s very healthy, and it’s deep green or purplish, and it’s not exactly like candy the first time you try some. But it has its positives as well.
When I made this braised kale with pasta, it was not my first time trying it – I’ve made an attempt at kale chips, and there was the time when I burned a bunch that I was blanching on the stove. But this experience was different.
While I was cooking the kale with garlic, onions, and olive oil, the fragrance of it all filling the kitchen, I realized something: I genuinely have no problem with this vegetable. None.
The first time I became aware of its burgeoning popularity, I felt confused, then reluctant, but this time I felt more at ease, with an open mind.
I was ready to accept kale into my life, and with the right recipe, I’d even say I like it. For someone with various past food aversions, that is truly something.
Through food, we can learn to soften prejudices and release stubborn opinions about things like a much-maligned green vegetable. Maybe experiences like these can even teach and encourage us to extend that flexibility to the rest of life, you know?
I hope so, for my sake and that of everyone who knows me. When previously held misconceptions are proven wrong, maybe we can use these opportunities to learn to let go of them more quickly in the future, and to open our palettes, our dinner tables, and our lived experiences to new truths.
Whatever you take away from this simple recipe, now that is is deliciously simple, a lightened up pasta creation that’s easy to make, flavorful, and nutritious.Print
Are you on the hunt for a healthy meal with lots of flavor? For a lightened up pasta dinner, this angel hair with braised kale is a tasty and easy option.
For the Pasta:
- 1 lb kale (about 2 bunches)
- 1 medium onion
- 8 large cloves garlic (or to taste)
- 3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 lb angel hair pasta
For the Lemon Sauce:
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 Tbsp lemon zest + more for serving
- 2 1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 5 Tbsp heavy cream
- 2 1/2 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese + more for serving
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Remove ribs and stems from the kale. Cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices. Rinse and drain; set aside in a bowl.
- Peel and finely chop the onion. You should have about 1 1/2 cups in total.
- Peel and thinly slice the garlic.
- Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in large, heavy pot over medium heat.
- Add chopped onion and cook until soft and translucent, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes.
- Add sliced garlic and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until onion is golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.
- Add kale and remaining tablespoon olive oil and toss until wilted, about 3 minutes. Cover pot and reduce heat to medium-low.
- Continue cooking until kale is very tender, stirring occasionally and adding water by teaspoonfuls if dry, about 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook pasta in a medium-sized pot of boiling salted water until al dente, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid.
- Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice, cream, and reserved pasta water. Cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.
- Remove sauce from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese.
- Add cooked pasta and lemon sauce to the kale mixture. Toss to combine.
- Serve garnished with additional lemon zest and Parmesan cheese as desired.
Adapted from Molly Wizenberg, Bon Appétit, October 2009.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Category: Pasta
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Dinner
Keywords: kale, angel hair, lemon, lightened-up
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prepare Vegetables and Measure Remaining Ingredients
Wash all of the produce well.
With a microplane or zester, zest the lemon. Slice the citrus in half and juice it, and remove any seeds.
Cut or tear away the kale stems and discard. Chop the leaves into ½-inch pieces, and set aside.
Peel the onion, and finely chop it. You should have 1 1/2 cups in total. If this is a task that you avoid, check out our tips for saying goodbye to those tears!
Peel the cloves of garlic, and thinly slice them. You can use less than the 8 cloves called for if you prefer, but I enjoy a really garlicky dish.
Measure out all remaining ingredients as listed on the ingredients list.
Step 2 – Cook Vegetables
Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat.
Add the onion and cook until translucent and soft. Stir occasionally as the onion cooks, for about 6 minutes.
Stir in the garlic, ¼ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Continue to saute until the onion is golden brown but not burned, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.
Stir in the kale and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Cook until wilted, tossing occasionally, for about 3 minutes. Cover the pot and reduce heat to medium-low.
Continue to cook the kale until it is very tender. Stir occasionally, adding teaspoonfuls of water if the pan is getting dry. It will take about 20 minutes to cook down the leafy greens.
Step 3 – Cook Pasta
While the kale is cooking, bring a pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until al dente, stirring occasionally.
Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid, and drain the angel hair in a colander or fine mesh strainer.
You can also prepare the pasta in your pressure cooker.
Step 4 – Make Sauce
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat.
Stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice, cream, and reserved pasta water.
Continue to cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.
Remove sauce from heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if desired.
Step 5 – Finish, Garnish, and Serve
Add the cooked pasta and lemon sauce to the kale mixture, and toss with tongs to combine.
Serve immediately, with additional lemon zest and grated Parmesan cheese on top.
Can I Use Another Vegetable Instead?
I know that not everyone is a kale fanatic, and I do believe this recipe is worth a shot if you’re on the path towards expanding your horizons.
If you know you’re not a fan but this super lemony pasta is still speaking to you, there’s a substitute:
Simply use traditional Swiss chard or rainbow chard instead. You can mix pasta into our recipe for creamed collard greens or pressure cooked collard greens for another option that packs in flavor and freshness.
Prepare the chard and cook it the same way that the recipe describes cooking the kale. It’ll be just as tasty.
For more pasta recipe inspiration that uses all kinds of fresh vegetables, be sure to check out some of our favorite dinner recipes below:
- Cheesy Charred Broccoli Pasta Bake
- Vegan Caramelized Eggplant and Pesto Pasta
- Baked Penne with Zucchini, Sausage, and Feta
What’s your favorite angel hair recipe? Tell us in the comments below, and be sure to rate this recipe once you try it for yourself.
Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on October 22, 2009. Last updated: December 30, 2021 at 17:00 pm. With additional writing and editing by Meghan Yager and Allison Sidhu.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Meghan Yager
Meghan Yager is a food addict turned food and travel writer with a love for creating uncomplicated, gourmet recipes and devouring anything the world serves up. As the author of the food and travel blog Cake 'n Knife, Meghan focuses on unique foodie experiences from around the world to right at home in your own kitchen.