Orecchiette with Kale and Pancetta

Pasta for a midnight snack
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My pasta cravings can strike at any hour. Unfortunately, that hour is usually around midnight. And while there's always something open late in New York, where I live, I try to skip the pizza, omelets and taco trucks and just go home to get my starch fix.

This dish is made from a few pantry staples: pasta, good olive oil, garlic, a pinch of red pepper and a sprinkle of hard cheese, plus a bit of pork in the form of pancetta or bacon. I like to toss in a hearty green like kale or its cousin spigarello in order to feel slightly less guilty about eating right before bed.

Orecchiette with Kale and Pancetta

Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen

Yield: 4 servings

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes


1 cup (about ½ pound) pancetta, cut into ¼-inch cubes

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ pound Tuscan kale (about 1 large bunch) or spigarello stems, trimmed

Salt, to taste

1 pound orecchiette

½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling

2 tablespoons butter

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Zest from 1 lemon


1. Place the pancetta in a large skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until the fat is rendered and the pancetta is crispy, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the greens and cook until just tender, about another minute. Season with salt.

2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally until al dente, about 9 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta water.

3. Add pasta and ½ cup pasta water to pancetta mixture and toss to coat. Add more pasta water if need to form a sauce. Add olive oil, butter, red pepper flakes, Parmesan and lemon; toss to combine. Divide pasta among bowls, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with more cheese.

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