This hearty pasta dish features ear-shaped pasta (orecchiette) tossed with nutritious kale and savory turkey sausage, all topped off with lemony breadcrumbs.
My husband Pete and I often joke around about how I rarely cook the same dish twice. Such is the life of a food blogger! While most people have dinner staples that they use in a weekly rotation, in my house it’s the opposite. I’m always experimenting in the kitchen, cooking up new dishes for the blog every week.
However, there are a few dishes that are our favorites, ones I turn to when I want a comforting, reliable, delicious meal. My Orecchiette with Kale and Turkey Sausage is one of those dishes. I created it many years ago and it never disappoints. Hearty pasta tossed with fresh kale and savory turkey sausage, all topped off with crunchy, lemony breadcrumbs… how can you go wrong?
Although many of us associate turkey with the holidays, I like to cook with turkey all year round. Turkey is a healthy, lean protein. It's flavorful and versatile and can be used in meals any time of day, all year round.
I use turkey quite often in my cooking. It’s a great canvas to absorb and enhance bold flavors. Plus, there are a variety of cuts available. Try turkey ground meat, turkey sausage, turkey tenderloin or turkey drumsticks the next time you’re at the grocery store.
If I had to choose a favorite pasta shape, I think I would have to go with orecchiette. Not a common shape, 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. Plus that curved shape is just perfect for catching little pieces of delicious turkey sausage and kale- yum!
I toss the orecchiette with turkey sausage and one of my favorite vegetables- kale. I like to use Tuscan kale, which is also known as Lacinato or Dinosaur kale. A powerhouse of nutrients, it’s more delicate and less bitter than traditional curly kale.
To read all about the health benefits of kale, click here. It works beautifully in this dish complemented by the savory turkey sausage, citrusy lemon, and nutty Pecorino Romano cheese.
To top it all off, I like to sprinkle the finished dish with my homemade gremolata breadcrumbs. 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 whole wheat breadcrumbs to this delightful mixture and the result is a crunchy, lemony topping that adds a punch of flavor and texture to the finished pasta dish.
So the next time you’re looking for a delicious pasta dish to add to your dinner rotation, try my Orecchiette with Kale and Turkey Sausage. Both of my kids love it too- they gobble it up, kale and all!
More tasty recipes
- Ingredient 911: Kale
- The Best Turkey Chili
- Lentil Soup with Sausage and Greens
- Sweet Potato and Kale Quesadillas
- Spaghetti and Turkey Meatballs
Orecchiette with Kale and Turkey Sausage
- 8 ounces orecchiette pasta (or other small pasta shape)
- 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 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
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 small clove garlic, minced
- ½ cup fresh breadcrumbs from whole wheat bread*
- 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 ½ tablespoon olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the turkey sausage and cook until browned and it reaches an internal temperature of 165ºF, breaking it up as it cooks. Remove sausage from the pan and set aside in a bowl. Drain any fat in the pan.
- Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes 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 sausage, orecchiette, and Pecorino Romano 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, just until the pasta is coated. Serve the pasta with gremolata breadcrumbs on the side to sprinkle on top.
- 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.