Ed Smith shows off the virtues of kalettes in an easy one-pot pasta dish
To be frank, I can’t get enough of this teeny brassica and I hope after trying it you will feel the same. It’s such a great hybrid of humble sprout and trendy kale (though of course each of these remain excellent vegetables in their own right).
Bacon is an important element of this recipe: no green vegetable goes badly with bacon and in this instance, it adds a certain savoury note to the dish that would otherwise be missing. Look out for really good lardons—try to pick up smoked ones if you can. I got mine from the Ginger Pig, but the likes of the Parma Ham and Mozzarella Stand and Northfield Farm should be able to sort you out too.
Finally, a note on the cooking of the kalettes. This recipe lets the greens wilt and steam with the cream cheese sauce. I have a feeling a quick blanch in a separate pan of boiling water might lead to very good results. But there’s satisfaction (and less washing up) in keeping this a one pan sauce.
320g dried shell shaped pasta
320g good quality lardons, preferably smoked
1 small onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, pureed
250ml white wine
250g mascarpone or soft cheese
Put a large saucepan of salted water on to boil. Trim any particularly woody looking ends off the kalettes and wash them thoroughly. Once the water is boiling, cook the pasta as per instructions on the pack.
While the pasta is cooking, use a large, thick bottomed frying pan or saucepan to fry the lardons. Best to start with a splash of oil and a low to medium heat to render out the fat, then turn up the heat to caramelise and brown the meat. When you think the bacon’s almost done, add the onion and garlic, turn the heat down and sweat and soften them for 1-2 mins.
Turn the heat back up and add the kalettes. Cook for 30 secs, then pour in the white wine and reduce the alcohol by half. Add the mascarpone / cream cheese and allow it to melt into the wine. It might need a prod or stir to encourage the melting.
Add a ladle of the pasta water into the pan and cook everything on a medium heat for 4 mins, during which time the greens will steam and wilt as the cheese sauce bubbles away. If it looks as though the sauce is reducing too much, add a ladle more of pasta water—there needs to be enough liquid to coat your pasta.
Drain the pasta when it’s ready (save the water in case the sauce needs more) and once the kalettes are al denté, put the pasta in the pan with the sauce and toss well to ensure each shell is well covered.
Sprinkle plenty of milled black pepper over the pasta, toss once more and serve. You could add parmesan or some grated lemon zest, but I’m not sure it’s needed.
Recipe and image: Ed Smith