One-Pot Kale Fennel Pasta

One-pot kale fennel pasta cooks in the same pan as its accompanying ingredients – no need to boil a separate pot of water!

We all know the drill. You come home, you’re bone-tired, and you need a quick dinner that will feed everyone and feed them fast.

So you reach for your biggest stockpot and turn the faucet on full blast, filling it with water to bring a box of pasta to a boil. It’s the oldest trick in the book.

one-pot kale fennel pasta
Photo: Casey Barber

But you can teach an old dog new tricks.

And I’m that old dog in this case, because I now turn to one-pot pastas that ditch the separate stockpot leave me with one fewer dish to wash at the end of the night.

Here’s the thing: unless you’re stirring a hunk of butter into elbow noodles and calling it a night, you’ll be cooking something else to toss with your pasta. Why not make it a one-dish proposition?

one-pot kale fennel pasta
Photo: Casey Barber

With this technique, similar to the method used for simmering risotto, you’re letting the pasta cook in broth or other flavorful liquid at the same time and in the same pan as its accompaniments.

Give the pasta a quick stir every three to five minutes or so while you grab plates and silverware, catch up on email, make a salad, pour a drink, and before you know it, you can carry the whole shebang to the table.

Chefs already do this to an extent, taking pasta out of the water a few minutes before it’s perfectly al dente and stirring it into whatever luscious sauce they’re simmering for the last bit of cooking time.

one-pot kale fennel pasta
Photo: Casey Barber

The pasta absorbs the sauce, giving it extra oomph, and the sauce takes on some of the pasta starch to thicken it a little more.

And everyone’s all about adding more kale to their repertoire these days, which is great, since it’s one of those vegetables that benefits from a nice braise.

This one-pot kale fennel pasta takes advantage of this characteristic (kale-acteristic? too much?).

one-pot kale fennel pasta
Photo: Casey Barber

Instead of cooking the pasta and the vegetable separately, both get a bubbly bath in vegetable or chicken broth, simmering until they’re tender.

Similarly, fennel is another vegetable that doesn’t need to be babied in a pan. The longer it cooks, the more tender and caramelized it gets, giving vegetarian dishes a rich and meaty undertone.

The slender slices of fennel retain their structure even after being cooked for 20 minutes, giving the dish a hint of sweet crunch, while a dash of red pepper flakes bring the heat.

one-pot kale fennel pasta

The result is a one-pot kale fennel pasta that can hold its own with other comforting braised winter dishes, without the hours of slow cooking.

Like this recipe? Try some of my other one-pot pastas like briny linguini with clam sauce and hearty Italian wedding soup pasta.

one-pot kale fennel pasta

One-Pot Kale Fennel Pasta

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

One-pot kale fennel pasta cooks in the same pan as its accompanying ingredients - no need to boil a separate pot of water!


  • 1 large fennel bulb
  • 1 bunch lacinato kale
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups vegetable or chicken broth, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 pound (8 ounces; 227 grams) spiral pasta like gemelli, celentani, or fusilli
  • freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese for garnish


  1. Lop the fronds off the fennel bulb and reserve a few to chop for garnish. Save the rest for another use (like fennel pesto, perhaps?).
  2. Slice the bulb into rounds no more than 1/4 inch thick, discarding the tough core end.
  3. De-stem the kale and tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed sauté pan or Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering.
  5. Add the fennel slices, garlic, pepper flakes, and salt to the oil and toss to coat.
  6. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until the fennel starts to soften and brown.
  7. Add the kale to the pan and stir frequently for a few minutes until the leaves turn bright green and wilt slightly.
  8. Add the broth and cover the pan until the liquid comes to a simmer.
  9. Uncover and stir in the pasta.
  10. Cook, stirring frequently, until the pasta is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 12-15 minutes. If the pasta absorbs most of the broth before it's done, add more broth or water as needed.
  11. Top with fennel fronds and serve with grated cheese, if desired.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 312Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 10mgSodium: 584mgCarbohydrates: 38gFiber: 9gSugar: 6gProtein: 11g

The nutritional information above is computer-generated and only an estimate.

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  1. Goodness gracious – there are at least three of those one-pot pastas that my little family will love! I bet it was a lot of work to come up with 11 (!) one pot wonders.

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