Green Up Your Pasta Puttanesca With Kale

by | Jan 11, 2009

I was never sure if I liked pasta puttanesca. In fact I am not even sure how many times I had eaten it before last week. That’s why I was so surprised when I found myself suddenly craving this distinctly Mediterranean medley of flavors.

Who knew?

I admit that anchovies, capers and olives scare me a little (okay, a lot) with their pungency. For that reason–once I decided I had to make it–I was careful to get high-quality ingredients (the antidote to every scary food you think you don’t like). The last thing I wanted was overly fishy pasta for dinner.

I got my anchovies from Whole Foods, and the kalamata olives and capers from Trader Joe’s. I got my canned tomatoes from TJ’s as well.

The only other ingredients required were olive oil, garlic, chili flakes and parsley.

The recipe I used was a super easy one from Cook’s Illustrated (you have to pay for a subscription to see their recipes) that claimed you could make the entire sauce while your pasta is boiling. I have the utmost faith in Cook’s to guide me through a flawless meal, so I made very few changes to their original recipe.

My main concern was that as a single, busy person in the city I wanted a more balanced meal than just pasta and sauce, and I would rather not go to the trouble of making a side dish. I solved this problem by adding some steamed dinosaur kale to the puttanesca, which turned out to be a perfect, crispy complement to the robust sauce and chewy pasta. The dish ended up truly fabulous.

You can use whatever kind of pasta you like, but this time I went with rigatoni.


Pasta Puttanesca With Kale

(modified from Cook’s Illustrated)


  • 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 8 anchovy fillets, minced
  • 0.5 cup pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tbsp capers, rinsed
  • 0.5 bunch dinosaur kale, cut into 1 inch squares
  • 0.25 cup parsley, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp red chili flakes
  • rigatoni or pasta of choice

Place a steam basket into pot of shallow water and boil. Add kale and cover. Steam 10 minutes.

Bring several quarts of water to a rolling boil (prepare sauce in the meantime). When water is boiling add 1 tsp salt and pasta. I prefer to make only enough pasta for one meal (~0.5 cup dry), since it does not keep particularly well once cooked. The sauce makes 4 servings and stores up to 3 days in the refrigerator.

Press or finely mince garlic and soak it in 1 tbsp of water in a small cup or bowl. Open your can of tomatoes and drain them, reserving 0.5 cup of liquid. Prepare all other ingredients before adding pasta to the water.

Immediately after starting your pasta boiling, heat a pan on medium heat and add 2 tbsp olive oil. When the olive oil swirls easily in the pan add anchovies, garlic mixture and chili flakes. Stir continuously until garlic just begins to brown, about 2 minutes, then add tomatoes and simmer.

When pasta is done, drain it and return it to the pot. Moisten pasta with some reserved tomato liquid and toss.

After sauce has simmered about 8 minutes toss in capers, olives, kale and parsley. Mix to combine. I tossed in some excellent Stonehouse olive oil at this point to brighten it up. (Don’t bother with this if you only have cheap olive oil.)

Add an appropriate volume of sauce to your pasta, toss and serve immediately.

If you enjoy this recipe, please come back and tell us what you think!

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8 Responses to “Green Up Your Pasta Puttanesca With Kale”

  1. MB says:

    First tell me what is dinosaur kale?

  2. Matt Shook says:

    I used to live off of a few basic carbohydrate-heavy meals when I became vegetarian…rice & beans, cereal/bread, and pasta. When I really wanted a good pasta, I always went for a spicy one…either arrabbiata or puttanesca. An old Italian woman once told me the translations of each…she said arrabbiata means "angry" pasta, and puttanesca is pasta "made like a whore". I nearly collapsed from side-pains from laughing so hard…Puttanesca (sans-anchoivies) is by far my favorite pasta dish…and I'm not just saying that to be a brown-noser. I love capers and their unique flavor…and kalamata olives are always to be found in my kitchen. Those two combined with a great spicy tomato sauce and tender penne…mmmm, perfection.I really agree with your sourcing of high-quality ingredients…it makes a ton of difference and does not have to break the bank (as evidenced by the Trader Joe's items). Also, great idea adding the kale to the dish…great complementary foliage!I finally arrived home and back to my beloved kitchen a few hours ago…since I have some free time this week I believe I will give this recipe a go…or at least a vegan alternative of it! I'll let you know how it turns out…

  3. Darya Pino says:

    @MBDinosaur kale is just another kale variety. The leaves are narrower and flatter than curly kale, and the color is darker. I think part of me thinks it might be healthier because of the darker skin.The leaves are also bumpy like reptilian skin, which is where it gets its name.I really like it so I buy it pretty much every week at the FM. I’ve seen it at Whole Foods too.—–@MattWelcome back! I hope you had a good trip home (and staved off malnutrition).Definitely let us know how the veggie version goes, I’m sure there are many readers that would be interested!And I love Italian names to describe pasta. What you really gotta look out for though is the “angry whores”, they’ll get you every time!

  4. Michelle says:

    Scared of anchovies? They are one of my favorites! But then again I have olive oil in my blood. Those ingredients spell nothing but perfection to me! And, like you, I’d rather make a one-pot meal so adding kale is perfect. Dinosaur kale is so much yummier than regular kale, I think.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Love the stonehouse oil snobbery, keep it up!

  6. Matt Shook says:

    @DaryaIt was a good trip in a lot of ways…and while I staved off malnutrition, I did lose a few pounds. I think I modified an old saying: "If you don't have anything good to eat, don't eat anything at all." ;)I decided to treat myself to a little pre-birthday indulgence and cooked up a vegetarian (vegan even) version of your Puttanesca tonight.I modded it a bit by cutting out the anchovies (obviously) and kale (couldn't find any). I upped the number of capers and kalamata olives, and threw in a small amount of onion and oregano. I also used organic whole wheat penne in place of rigatoni…and added olive oil when I put the pasta & celtic sea salt in the boiling pot, and again after I strained it. It's an old Italian method…a large part ofmy family originated from Genoa (Northern Italy).It turned out wonderfully, and the only changes I might have made would be to add a bit more garlic and red chili flakes…I like it hot.I think I would call it Puttanesca Uomo Vegetariani…which would roughly translate to “pasta cooked like an angry vegetarian man-whore.” 😉

  7. Darya Pino says:

    @MattWow, awesome! That looks delicious and I’m glad it turned out well for you. It’s a great alternative for either vegetarians or people who are still just scared of anchovies.I actually bought more this weekend 🙂

  8. privo shoes says:

    Scared of anchovies? They are one of my favorites! But then again I have olive oil in my blood. Those ingredients spell nothing but perfection to me! And, like you, I’d rather make a one-pot meal so adding kale is perfect. Dinosaur kale is so much yummier than regular kale, I think.

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