My Orecchiette Pasta with Sausage and Kale is a delicious and hearty pasta dish that the whole family will love! I toss ear-shaped pasta with nutrient-packed kale and savory turkey sausage, and top it all off with toasted, lemony breadcrumbs. Fast, flavorful, and satisfying- it's the perfect weeknight meal.
There are a few dishes that I turn to when I want a quick, comforting, and reliable meal. My Orecchiette Pasta with Sausage and Kale is one of those dishes. I created it many years ago and it never disappoints.
This pasta with sausage and kale is a delicious and easy-to-make dish that is perfect for a quick weeknight dinner. The savory turkey sausage and lemony kale pair perfectly with the hearty pasta and nutty pecorino cheese. It all makes for one delicious and satisfying dish!
Not only is this recipe delicious, it's also a great way to incorporate more leafy greens into your diet.
This healthy and satisfying orecchiette pasta with sausage and kale is a meal that is sure to become a family favorite. Hearty pasta tossed with fresh kale and savory turkey sausage, all topped off with crunchy, lemony breadcrumbs. How can you go wrong?
Why You'll Love This Dish
- Packed with flavor, color, and texture
- Easy to make- a simple skillet meal
- Healthy- full of nutritious ingredients
- Family-friendly- kids and adults will love this dish
Kale is a true superfood! It's packed with nutrients and is a great source of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as fiber and antioxidants. I stir it into pasta dishes, add it to quesadillas, and enjoy it in salads.
I like to use Tuscan kale, also known as Lacinato or Dinosaur kale, in this dish. It's more delicate and less bitter than traditional curly kale.
What is Orecchiette?
If I had to choose a favorite pasta shape, I think I would have to go with orecchiette. Orecchiette is a type of pasta from southern Italy that means “little ears” because of its unique shape.
It has a curved contour with a thinner center and slightly thicker outer edge, giving it a pleasant chewy texture. That curved shape allows the pasta to hold onto sauces and other ingredients, making it a popular choice for dishes with thick or chunky sauces. It's just perfect for catching little pieces of delicious sausage and kale in this dish!
How To Make Orecchiette Pasta With Sausage and Kale
- Step 1 - Cook turkey sausage in a skillet with olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes.
- Step 2- Add the kale and chicken broth and cook until kale is wilted. Season the mixture with lemon juice.
- Step 3- Stir in the cooked orecchiette pasta and grated pecorino cheese and toss to combine.
- Step 4- Stir in some of the pasta water until the pasta is coated. Serve pasta as is or top with gremolata breadcrumbs for an extra crunch.
Gremolata is a traditional Italian condiment made with lemon zest, garlic and parsley and is typically served on top of meat dishes. I add toasted breadcrumbs to this delightful mixture. The result is a crunchy, lemony topping that adds a punch of flavor and texture to the finished sausage and kale pasta.
- I like to use Tuscan kale, also known as Lacinato or Dinosaur kale, in this dish. It's more delicate and less bitter than traditional curly kale. If you use curly kale, you'll have to cook it a few minutes longer.
- Be sure to reserve some of the pasta cooking water before draining the pasta. You will use the pasta water to create a sauce that coats the orecchiette.
- Orecchiette is available in most grocery stores in the pasta section. If you can't find it, you can substitute other small pasta shapes like shells.
So the next time you’re looking for a delicious pasta dish to add to your dinner rotation, try this simple and delicious orecchiette pasta with sausage and kale. Your family will love it!
Want to learn more about why kale is a superfood? Read my post all about the health benefits of kale.
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Orecchiette Pasta with Sausage and Kale
- 8 ounces orecchiette pasta (or other small pasta shape)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound sweet Italian turkey sausage, removed from casings
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 bunch Tuscan kale (about 8 ounces), chopped
- 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Gremolata Breadcrumbs (Optional):
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small clove garlic, minced
- ½ cup fresh breadcrumbs* (or panko breadcrumbs)
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon minced parsley
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- Bring a large pot filled with salted water to boil over high heat. Add the orecchiette and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving approximately 1 cup of the pasta water.
- Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the turkey sausage and cook until browned, breaking it up as it cooks.
- Add the garlic and red pepper flakes to the pan and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the kale and toss to coat with the oil. Sauté 1-2 minutes, then add the chicken broth and cover the pan. Cook until the kale is wilted, a few minutes. Add the lemon juice and season the kale with a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.
- Add the orecchiette and pecorino cheese to the pan and toss to combine all ingredients well. Stir in some of the reserved pasta water, a small amount at a time, until the pasta is coated. Serve the pasta as is or top with gremolata breadcrumbs, if desired.
- To make the gremolata breadcrumbs, heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add the breadcrumbs and stir to combine. Toast until breadcrumbs are golden brown, then remove from heat and toss with the lemon zest, parsley, and salt.
I have made this dish twice and have loved it both times! I always double the ingredients so there are leftovers. It is very easy and quick to put together in under 30 minutes. I browned hot turkey sausage links taken from their casings in a pot. I left the sausage in the pot and added the garlic and red pepper flakes (no need for additional oil). Then, I added a huge bunch of kale torn into pieces and sautéed for a bit to coat in the oil that remained in pot and the little bit of fat left from the turkey sausage. Then, I added store bought low sodium chicken bone broth and sautéed with the lid on till the kale got softer. I used curly kale because this is all my grocery store had. This required me to cook it a bit longer. Once the kale had softened, I added the lemon juice, cheese (locattelli), and pasta. I tossed to coat, adding pasta water slowly. I ended up using the entire cup of pasta water. This dish is absolutely delicious with only a few ingredients. I always like to try to modify recipes and add extra ingredients but there is no need to with this one. I did not make the gremolata due to time (we were very hungry) but think it would only make an incredible dish even better. Definitely try this dish!!
Dr. Sonali Ruder says
Thanks so much for your comment, Jennifer! I'm so happy you enjoyed the dish! This is one of our family favorites (and a great way to get my kids to eat kale)! 🙂 The gremolata just adds an extra bit of crunch and lemony flavor, which I love.
This was absolutely delicious. I made my own sausage using chicken breast.
We both loved this one and will have it again many times over.
Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe.
We absolutely love Tuscan kale. This is a perfect combination of protein, carbs. and healthy vegetable.
Definitely on my next 'try' list, in the kitchen. Thanks Sonali.
This is now on the coming week's menu. Looks absolutely delicious, Sonali!
Looks so comforting yet fresh! I love the addition of kale and lemon.
You know, there's nothing surprising that you rarely cook one dish twice, Sonali. That's absolutely my case too. There are only few reasons I would repeat it: 1) It was absolutely delicious (Again, a rare reason cause all my food is delicious hah. As you see, I'm a humble person) 2) I didn't manage (or screwed) the pictures first time 3) I wish to update the old pics 4) I wish to perfect the dish (This reason doesn't really belong to this group - it's developing the recipe) 5) special request of my husband (but since I'm the person who determines what to cook most of the times, this is not a common one either) This pasta looks and sounds fantastic; that's a perfect combo. I wouldn't mind having this for a few days in a row:)
Beverley Press says
I absolutely love the ingredients in this recipe. I don't seem to have enough time these days to visit all my favorite bloggers but I do love getting your emails. Hope you are all ready for the summer. lots of love xoxo