Orecchiette Pasta with Spinach, Kale, and Toasted Pine Nuts

Orecchiette With Spinach, Kale, and Pine Nuts

Sometimes I feel like I’ve been living under a rock.  How have I never heard of orecchiette pasta until now?  Maybe because I grew up in Arizona eating tacos,  chimichangas, and salsa.  Actually, not such a bad thing.  But, I am so glad I found out about it.  I don’t know if I will ever go back to spaghetti again.  Orecchiette, in Italian, means “little ears” because of its shape.  They are so cute and hold sauce very well.  This recipe is simple and quick, but the flavor is delicious, and the addition of spinach and kale adds a lot of nutrients.  However, my favorite part of this pasta is the pine nuts.  They give a slight crunch and a nutty taste that adds so much to this dish.

I knew that kale was very good for you, but until today, didn’t know just how good.  Just 1 cup contains 1,020 % of the daily requirement of Vitamin K, 200% of Vitamin C, and 180% of Vitamin A.  Not only that, it  has copper, potassium, iron,and manganese as well as antioxidants and other properties that help with eye health, reduce heart disease, and prevent cancer.  Wow!  I have eaten it raw before, and it is a little tough, but in this recipe, you sauté it, so it is much easier to eat, and takes on the flavor of the onions and garlic it is cooked in.  I did read, though, that if you are taking an anticoagulant such as Warfarin, you should avoid kale because it can interfere with it.

Just one caution for you should you decide to make this.  Don’t throw out your pasta water when you drain it.  I forgot and had to improvise the first time, but the second time I made it, I  remembered to save it, and it was so much better.  I hope you will come out from under your rock, too, and try orecchiette.  Or am I the only one who had never heard of it? Oh well, life is so much better out here in the sunshine, eating pasta.  And I think it may just be a tiny bit healthier than the Chocolate Truffle Cookies I was eating last week.


  • 1/2 lb. orecchiette pasta
  • 1/3 c pine nuts (Trader Joe’s has them already toasted)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 c onion, finely diced
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 c fresh spinach
  • 1 c fresh kale, ripped into bite-sized pieces (Trader Joe’s has packaged organic washed and torn Kale)
  • 1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
  • salt to taste (I used 1/2 tsp. but also salted the pasta water)
  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions.  When the pasta is cooked, drain the water, but DON’T FORGET TO SAVE IT.
  2. If you weren’t able to find already toasted pine nuts, toast the pine nuts in a skillet over medium-heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.  Watch carefully as they burn easily.  Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. To a large skillet, add olive oil, and butter, and heat on medium-low until butter is melted.
  4. Immediately add onions, and cook until onions are almost soft.
  5. Add garlic, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more, stirring as needed so garlic doesn’t burn.
  6. Add the kale, spinach, pasta, and 1/4 cup reserved water to the skillet with the onions and garlic.  Stir to combine and continue to cook on medium-low until spinach and kale have softened and begun to wilt.  Turn off the heat.
  7. Toss the pasta with the pine nuts and Parmesan cheese.
  8. Season to taste with salt.  Serve immediately with additional Parmesan.  (This dish is much better if eaten right away.)

Recipe adapted from Forkknifeswoon.

About Shari

My name is Shari, and I am an Arizona native and married mother of 3 who loves to cook and bake and figure out how to garden successfully in our suburban home in the desert. On this blog you will find a combination of savory and sweet recipes that have been tested by me, along with many tips to help you be successful. I hope you enjoy them! (cookazido.com)
This entry was posted in Italian, Main Dish, Pasta, Recipes, Weeknight Meals and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Orecchiette Pasta with Spinach, Kale, and Toasted Pine Nuts

  1. Betsy Duzan says:

    I couldn’t find the orecchiette pasta… is that something you get at Trader Joes?

    • cookazido says:

      I had trouble finding it, too. I finally located it at AJ’s which is a more upscale, gourmet type store here. Walmart and TraderJoe’s didn’t have it. I hope you can find it! But if not, shells are a similar shape. Any pasta would be fine, though.

      On Mon, Apr 22, 2013 at 4:11 PM, Cook AZ I Do

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