Drunken Spaghetti with Black Kale

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls – pay attention.  This one is good in about 18 different ways.  I know the name is both intriguing and maybe not so appealing, but don’t judge the recipe by its title.  This is awesome.  It’s easy and it’s beautiful and it’s cheap and the flavor is more than fantastic.  Read on!

I only made a half recipe of this and now I’m a little sad, except that it would be so, so easy to eat way too much of this.  I made one substitution.  I didn’t have any pancetta, but I did have some very yummy sopressata so I used that instead.  The only issue there was texture. I diced the sopressata, but even after cooking it for a few minutes it was still just a touch chewy.  Pancetta is a lot thinner so it crisps nicely.  Still, the flavor of the sopressata was so amazing and the slightly chewy texture actually blended pretty well with the al dente pasta and the wilted kale.  It all gives your teeth something to do so you know you’re eating a real meal.

I used an inexpensive Bordeaux that I found at my neighborhood wine store.  It’s dry, but flavorful and not too oaky.  If ever there was truth to the idea that you shouldn’t cook with wine you wouldn’t be willing to drink, this is it.  The noodles take on a milder flavor profile of the wine and a beautiful burgundy color.  Only cook the kale long enough to wilt it good.  You want to maintain the bright green color and the tiny bit of crispness in the texture.  Finish it all with a good quality pecorino cheese.  If you use a higher quality you can use a lesser quantity and get the same flavor infusion throughout the dish.  I didn’t even both to top the bowl with extra cheese so that I could clearly taste every flavor.

One note about the cooking.  The pasta took longer to cook than I expected.  I don’t know if it just takes longer in the wine and water mixture or if the pot was too crowded.  In any case I did all my chopping before I put the pasta in.  I started the sopressata and garlic pan at the same time as I put the pasta in the pot.  I ended up turning off the kale mixture and waiting for the pasta to finish.  If you’re pretty quick with a knife you could probably cut the stems out of the kale and cut it into ribbons while the pasta cooks.  Then things would be done at the same time.  Up to you.  It worked out just fine for me that I had a little time to hang out in the kitchen and drink some of the wine while I waited for the pasta to finish up.

I don’t repeat too many recipes these days, but this is a keeper!  It will definitely make an appearance at some future dinner party or date.  It’s easy enough and quick enough that you can make it when you come in from work.  It’s pretty enough and sophisticated enough to make a week night an occasion.  Buy two bottles of the wine – one to cook with and one to drink!

Good? Oh so very good.
Easy? So easy.
Good for company? Beautiful and yummy. What more could you want for company?
Special shopping? Nope, you should be able to find lacinato kale in any large grocery. Use regular kale or other hearty green if you can’t (collards, turnip greens, mustard greens).

Drunken Spaghetti with Black Kale

Note: The recipe that follows is the full recipe. I halved all of the amounts listed below.


1 bottle dry Italian red wine
1 pound spaghetti
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 pound sopressata chopped into fine dice
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 bundles black, Tuscan, or Dinosaur kale, thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus a chunk to shave at table


Pour the whole bottle of wine into a pasta pot and add about the same amount of water. Salt the liquid and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the pasta and cook until just shy of al dente. Heads up: Remove and reserve 1 cup of cooking water just before draining.

Meanwhile, heat a deep skillet over medium to medium-high heat with the extra-virgin olive oil. Add the sopressata and cook until crisp, 2 to 3 minutes, then add the garlic and swirl it around for 2 minutes more. Add the kale, let it wilt and then season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, to taste. Add the reserved cooking liquid, drained pasta and the grated cheese. Toss vigorously for at least a full minute, then serve in shallow bowls.


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