Sometimes when I’m crunched for time, I like to throw together what I call a “pasta toss.”
It turns out that there are a lot of pasta toss recipes out there (2.4 million according to google), but most of the ones that returned on the first page were very heavy dishes.
When I do a pasta toss, I usually like it to be on the lighter side. I like to use flavorful veggies, nuts, maybe a bit of cheese, and good olive oil, which is exactly what this version has.
Maybe most importantly though, a good pasta toss should take less than 30 minutes to prepare, in my opinion. It’s a dish that can be made almost on a whim, but it really filling and somewhat healthy.
1) Rinse kale and chop off leaves to remove any large stems. Blanch kale in salted, boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove kale and immediately submerge in ice water to stop the cooking.
2) In a large high-walled pan, add olive oil over low heat. Add minced garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook for a few minutes until fragrant, being careful not to burn the garlic.
3) Cook pasta in same water that you blanched the kale in.
4) Drain kale and add to pan with garlic, pepper flakes and olive oil. Stir to coat the kale.
5) Once pasta is cooked, drain and add immediately to pan with kale. Stir to combine well and season with salt and pepper.
6) Add fresh squeezed lemon juice to pan and stir to combine.
7) Serve pasta toss with slivered almonds and parmesan cheese.
For this pasta toss, I used a full bunch of kale, but feel free to experiment. Almost any leafy green would work well or you can even expand into brussel sprouts, green beans, or asparagus world.
Honestly, I rarely put meat in with this dish just because it drags out your cooking time pretty substantially. If you use a lot of rich green veggies, you won’t miss the flavor. It’s still a very filling meal.
If you’ve never worked with kale before, it can seem a bit intimidating. The leaves are huge, but they are very easy to break down actually.
Just use a sharp knife to slice down the sides of each rib on each leaf. Remove the thick parts of the ribs leaving only the leafy green parts. Then very roughly chop those up.
Also, be sure to rinse your kale really well. A lot of dirt and grime can get caught in the folds of the leaves.
Once your kale is washed and chopped, dunk it into a large pot of salted, boiling water. I usually use 1 tablespoon of kosher salt per gallon of water. You can use this same pot of water to cook your pasta in after the kale is done.
Once the kale is in, give it a stir and let it cook for just 30-45 seconds. It should turn bright green and start to wilt a bit.
Once it’s done cooking, immediately remove the kale from the water and dunk it all in a big bowl of ice water. This will stop the cooking time and preserve some crunch to the kale. It will also help it stay bright green.
This step is annoying, but if you don’t do it your kale will continue to cook and get soggy and turn a muddy brown color.
Besides the kale, there are really just a few ingredients to this toss, most of which you should have around if you keep a decently stocked pantry.
While there are just a few ingredients, they pack a lot of flavor.
Cooking the Dish
While your pasta is cooking, go ahead and add your oil to a large skillet or pan with high walls. You’re going to build the entire dish in this pan so make sure it’s big enough to fit everything. You can use a large pot also.
Heat the oil over low heat and then add the garlic and red pepper flakes. You want to warm these ingredients, but not burn them. Keep a close eye on them, keep the heat down low, and only cook them for 3-4 minutes.
Once the oil is really infused with the garlic and red pepper flakes (it will be super fragrant), go ahead and drain your kale and add it to the pan.
It’ll sizzle like crazy, but just stir it around and coat the kale with all the oil and garlic.
Finishing the Dish
If your timing is right, your pasta should be done just a few minutes after you add your kale to the large pot.
Drain the pasta and you’re ready to rock. When it comes to pasta, you can use a wide range of pastas for this dish. I like penne though.
Once you add the pasta to the pot, stir (or toss if you’re feeling ambitious) everything together and then squeeze on some fresh lemon juice.
The lemon juice adds some acidity to the dish that makes all the flavors really come alive. Don’t skip it no matter what.
Also, it would be a good idea to season the pasta toss with a pinch of salt and pepper at this point.
Once everything is mixed well and seasoned well, it’s done!
Pour it all into a big bowl and top it with slivered almonds and some freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
For an under 30 minute dinner, this is pretty hard to beat in my opinion.
It has some slight heat to it and lots of leafy green flavors.
When people email me and say they are crunched for time and looking for quick dishes, this is the recipe I’ll be sending them now.