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This Veggie Orecchiette with Breadcrumbs will make you feel like you’re sitting on a patio overlooking the hills of Tuscany.

Veggie Orecchiette with Fresh Breadcrumbs

Guys, this veggie orecchiette is where it’s at.

Like, whoa.

Who knew kale could be so good?

These words actually came out of The Mr.’s mouth: “The kale in this is so good!”


This pasta is turning my husband into a kale lover.

In my mind, it’s practically magic.

Veggie Orecchiette with Breadcrumbs

Bon Appetit had a fabulous feature on pastas in the February edition of their magazine. Full of hearty ragus, creamy carbonaras, and smooth tomato sauces, I think I tore out nearly every page in the feature. But the first pasta on my list was a kale orrechiette with bread crumbs. It had a simple sauce of olive oil and butter, but what really got me was the pockets of breadcrumbs and kale tucked away in the pasta.

It was a must-make. And it should be for you too. Here’s why:

This pasta will make you feel like you’re sitting on a patio overlooking the hills of Tuscany.

It’ll make you feel like an Italian grandmother whipping out your top secret, handed-down-for-generations recipe.

It will make you want to touch your finger tips to your lips and yell, Delizioso!, at the top of your lungs.

It’ll make your husband love kale.

‘Nuff said.

Veggie Orecchiette with Breadcrumbs

Some notes on the process:

The key to this dish is to build flavor with every step. After boiling the kale, use the same water to cook the pasta. After the pasta is cooked, reserve some of the liquid to coat the pasta in the end.

Also, I’m sure you’ve probably heard about the importance of salting your pasta water to help add flavor to your pastas. What I didn’t realize is that you’re supposed to add a lot more than just a couple shakes from the salt shaker. To really flavor your pasta, you need to add 2 Tablespoons to a full 1/4 cup of Kosher salt to your water! I added about 3 Tablespoons to this dish and while I haven’t tested it against other recipes, this dish was amazing, so I think I’m sticking with it.

Finally, use the best olive oil you can afford. I’m going to be honest, we buy olive oil in bulk–the cheap stuff–for all our daily sauteeing and cooking needs. But when a dish is finished with a drizzle of olive oil or you just want to coat a few salad greens, use the good stuff. You really will be able to taste the difference.

Veggie Orecchiette with Breadcrumbs

Veggie Orecchiette with Breadcrumbs
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 6
  • 2 bunches of kale, stems trimmed
  • 5 Tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling
  • 2-3 slices day old bread or 1 cup store bought bread crumbs
  • 3 minced garlic cloves, divided
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 large celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 3 smal carrots, finely chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • ½ cup water plus reserved pasta water
  • 1 lb. orecchiette or mini shell pasta
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add kale to the pot and cook for 4 minutes. Remove kale with tongs, reserving the excess water. Drain kale in a colander and leave it there to cool. Once cool, squeeze kale to let out excess water. You'll be shocked how much water will come out of those leaves! It's like squeezing a sponge! Transfer to a cutting board and finely chop.
  2. (If you're using store bought crumbs you can skip this step altogether.) Meanwhile, heat 3 Tablespoons olive oil in a medium sized skillet over medium heat. Use a food processor to pulse the bread slices into fine crumbs. Add breadcrumbs to the hot oil and stir to coat. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add one minced garlic clove to the mixture. Stir and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes or until mixture is browned and crispy. Place crumbs in a bowl or plate lined with a paper towel.
  3. In the same skillet, add butter and remaining 2 Tablespoons olive oil. Add celery and carrots and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add remaining minced garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add kale and ½ cup water to the skillet and cook until heated through, about three minutes. Season with Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.
  4. Meanwhile, bring the kale water back to a boil and cook the orrechiette according to package directions. Drain orrechiette, but be sure to reserve 2 cups of the pasta water!
  5. Place orecchiette back in the pot then stir in kale and carrot mixture. Add about a ½ cup of the pasta water back to the pot and stir to coat. Add cheese and stir. Continue to add additional pasta water until the pasta is well coated and smooth. Divide among bowls, sprinkle with breadcrumbs, and drizzle with additional olive oil if desired.
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

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