Nutty Kale with Whole Wheat Penne is packed with nutrition. (Jennifer Iserloh / SkinnyChef.com)
National Kale Day, the first Wednesday in October, has come and gone. At least officially.
I imagine it was hard to fit in what with all the pancake, ice cream, doughnut and potato chip days we’ve been experiencing. And come to think of it, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of a national vegetable day. Green beans never get their due, lettuce gets left out and tomatoes turn red without much fanfare. But kale has come a long way — literally from the ground up.
The dark-green leafy greens are one of the most sought-after vegetables at the farmers markets, and once die-hard kale haters have come around to praise it. It’s not hard to find a restaurant that features kale in some fashion on its menu.
Kale is a superhero when it comes to health. Kale is the queen of the cruciferous vegetable family (which also includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts and bok choy), which means you get plant-based power in your diet that goes well beyond just standard vitamin and minerals. Kale is packed with special phytonutrient molecules, making it a power plant that can fight obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
In fact, just a few cups of kale daily may have the power to battle cancer, inflammation and low moods. Add to that protein, high levels of vitamin C and K, iron, omega-3 and fiber — nutrients that many Americans are sorely missing from their diet.
Kale is not only nutrient-dense, it also happens to be hearty, which means it travels well and lasts for up to a week when stored in a loose paper or plastic bag in your refrigerator crisper. It’s also extremely versatile.
There are several varieties of kale, but I like the Tuscan kale, also called dinosaur kale or lacinato, as it’s a bit sweeter than curly kale and can stand up to a viniagrette or stand in for a pasta sauce.
Even though National Kale Day has passed, this recipe for Nutty Kale with Whole Wheat Penne, provided courtesy of a National Kale Day board member, deserves the limelight.
Nutty Kale with Whole Wheat Penne
Courtesy of Marydale Debor, a National Kale Day Board Member
1 pound whole wheat penne (look for pasta made with 100 percent whole wheat in the ingredient list)
1 pound kale, leaves torn from stems and center ribs (save stems and ribs for soup stock), roughly chopped
1⁄3 cup chopped hazelnuts or sliced almonds
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper
½ cup grated Parmigiano-reggiano
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Cook the penne according to the package instructions, reserving 2 cups of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and set aside.
Heat a large stockpot over medium heat and add the olive oil and nuts. Cook, stirring until golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a plate. Cook garlic, onion, pepper flakes and ¼teaspoon each of salt and pepper in remaining oil, stirring occasionally 8-10 minutes. Add the kale and 1 cup of the pasta water, cook 2-3 minutes until the kale wilts and is tender. Return the nuts to the stockpot, along with the pasta, cheese and butter.
Cook over low heat, stirring, 1 minute, moistening with additional pasta water, if needed. Serve immediately. Serves 6.
Per serving (per ½ pound pasta with veggies): 467 calories; 18 g fat (6 g saturated fat; 35 percent calories from fat); 65 g carbohydrates; 21 mg cholesterol; 259 mg sodium; 16 g protein; 8 g fiber.