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Pasta With Kale and Crispy Garlic

This simple pasta dish perfectly balances complementary flavors.

March 1, 2017

Sweet, sour, salty and bitter — this simple pasta dish has it all and balances these tastes to perfection. This one’s a keeper!

Serves six to eight people. 


  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 whole head garlic, peeled and thinly sliced crosswise (about 9 cloves)
  • 1 medium red onion, diced into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 large bunch kale (the “dinosaur” kind), ribs removed and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, quartered lengthwise
  • 1 to 1-and-1/2 cups feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 pound cut pasta, such as penne


  1. Heat a large pot of water to the boil.
  2. In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add sliced garlic and cook, stirring, until golden, about three to four minutes. Remove garlic with a slotted spoon and place on a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. As the garlic cooks, add pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package directions.
  3. Add diced onion to the oil and cook until translucent, about three minutes. Stir in dried cranberries and cook about one minute. Add chopped kale along with the water, salt and pepper. We use pasta water skimmed from the top of the pasta pot. Cover and cook about five minutes — leaves should be just tender.
  4. Skim a cup of water from the pasta pot and set aside. Drain pasta, transfer to a large serving bowl and toss with kale mixture. If it look like the mixture needs more moisture, add some of the reserved pasta water.
  5. Top with Kalamata olives, crumbled feta and crispy garlic chips. Serve immediately.


  • This recipe requires a lot of chopping. Do take the shortcut of using whole, peeled garlic cloves from the produce section.
  • Do not use bagged, chopped kale — it’s full of stems you’ll have to take out anyway. It is more simple to strip out the ribs with your hands from a fresh bunch of kale.
  • Don’t use pre-crumbled feta. You’ll get better results from a fresh block you crumble yourself.
  • We use Jovial brown rice caserecce pasta to keep it gluten-free, and Paradise Meadow jumbo dried cranberries for extra flavor.