I steadfastly and categorically refuse to complicate food unless there’s a very compelling reason. I’m happy to say that in the case of today’s Simple Mushroom Kale Pasta with Pancetta recipe -as you can probably guess from the ‘simple’- no such compulsion exists. We are combining simple, fresh ingredients in an uncomplicated way and ending up with a perfectly balanced, soul-soothing, earthy and filling bowl full of pasta that is done in 30 minutes.
Can I get an amen?
Simple Mushroom Kale Pasta with Pancetta is inspired by my recent stay in Tuscany where I was thrilled to find that the Tuscan people share my reluctance to bedevil beautiful ingredients with unnecessary complexities. When you have lovely baby bella mushrooms, baby kale, pancetta, garlic, a little white wine, and a good bag of pasta, there’s no reason on earth why you would need to start tossing in a bunch of other crazy things.
- When you render the fat from the pancetta, you may find you need to augment it with a little bit of extra oil to bring it up to the neighborhood of 2 tablespoons. If you need to do so, add a pure olive oil (not extra virgin, but just plain pure olive oil) to bring the level up a bit.
- When you add mushrooms to the pan, you need to give them a quick stir to distribute the oil and salt, then LEAVE THEM ALONE! It’s that long, undisturbed contact with the heat is what gives the mushrooms that beautiful sear instead of sweating them.
- The method of cooking the garlic by just lightly smacking it while it is still in its skin and adding the clove -kit and caboodle- to the pot is one shared with me by my new friends in Tuscany. The brilliance of it is that you get that beautiful mild garlic flavour infused through the dish while protecting the delicate stinky rose from scorching which ruins it. At the end of the cooking process, you can squeeze the now roasted garlic out of the paper into the dish, or fish it out and be done with it. Either way, you have an amazing garlic flavour through the whole dish.
- As usual, I advise you to use a white wine that you would appreciate if you were sipping it. Cooking wine concentrates its flavours, so you want to start with something good!
- While your mushrooms are searing, you can add your pasta to the boiling water. You should be prepared to pull the pasta when it is 2 minutes underdone. This will allow it time to finish cooking in the pan with the mushrooms, white wine, kale, and cheese.
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Simple Mushroom Kale Pasta with Pancetta
- 4 ounces of pancetta diced into 1/8 to 1/4-inch cubes
- pure olive oil
- 1 pound 4 ounces sliced baby bella mushrooms crimini
- 2 cloves garlic smacked to lightly crush but left in its papery skin
- three generous pinches kosher salt
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- 8 cups baby kale
- 1 pound to 17.2 ounces of good pasta cooked according to very al dente according to package directions, hot pasta water reserved
- 1 1/2 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- extra parmesan cheese
- Get a large pasta pot of water set over high heat and let it come to a boil while you work on the other ingredients.
- Place a large skillet over medium low heat and toss in the diced pancetta. Render the fat from the pancetta and cook until the pancetta is golden brown. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pancetta to a paper towel lined plate.
- If there is less than 2 tablespoons of fat, augment the pancetta fat with some pure olive oil to make up for the difference. Turn the heat to HIGH and add half of the mushrooms, the smacked cloves of garlic, and the kosher salt and toss in the pan, then let cook, undisturbed for 2 minutes before stirring it.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta to one or two minutes UNDER done according to package directions. Add the sprigs of rosemary to the pan with the mushrooms and push the mushrooms to the edge of the pan. Add a teaspoon of pure olive oil and the second half of the mushrooms and let cook undisturbed for 2 minutes before stirring. When the mushrooms are seared and fragrant, add the white wine to the pot along with a ladle full of pasta water and let it boil until it is reduced by half. Add the kale into the pot. Use tongs to transfer the pasta from the hot water directly to the pan, add the grated parmesan cheese, fresh black pepper, and another ladle or two full of hot pasta water. Toss to combine, allowing the pan sauce to boil and thicken. When the pasta is coated with the sauce, remove the pan from the heat and remove the rosemary sprigs from the pasta. Serve hot, garnished with the reserved pancetta.