But I’ve got a new trick for you that keeps the stockpot in the cabinet and leaves you with one less 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? 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. Unlike risotto, however, these dishes are far less hands-on and time-consuming. Give the pasta a quick stir every five minutes or so while you grab plates and silverware, catch up on email, make a salad, pour a (much-needed) 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. 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.
This recipe takes it one step further, so you can make linguini with clam sauce that bubbles in rich, briny clam broth; shells that cook in a hearty mushroom and sage ragu; or a comforting pot of meatball-studded pasta that tastes just like slow-simmered Italian wedding soup.
Everyone’s all about adding more kale to their repertoire these days, and it’s one of those vegetables that benefits from a nice braise—so why not let it soak up a hit of chicken broth while you’re simmering pasta too? Fennel in the pan stays crisp-tender even after it’s been 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 and Fennel Pasta
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 50 minutes
Makes 4 servings
- 1 large fennel bulb
- 4-5 large kale leaves
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 1/2 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 pound (8 oz.) celentani, fusilli, or other spiral pasta
- freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese for garnish
Lop the fronds off the fennel bulb and reserve for another use (like fennel pesto, perhaps?). Slice the bulb into rounds no more than 1/4 inch thick, discarding the tough core end.
De-stem the kale and tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces.
Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed, high-sided skillet, sauté pan, or Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering.
Add the fennel slices, garlic, and pepper flakes to the oil and toss to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 7-8 minutes until the fennel starts to soften and brown.
Add the kale to the pan and stir frequently for a few minutes until the leaves turn bright green and wilt slightly.
Add the broth and cover the pan until the liquid comes to a simmer. Stir in the salt.
Add the pasta and cook, stirring frequently, for about 15 minutes until the pasta is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed.
Serve immediately with grated cheese on the side, if desired.