Pasta dishes are a staple of Italian cooking for a reason. They tend to be simple and healthy with seasonal ingredients. This recipe with kale is a perfect example.

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio with Lots of Kale

recipe by Carla Lalli Music

bunches of Tuscan kale with red tiesYou will think this pasta recipe calls for an absurd amount of kale, but it will shrink a ton when cooked.


  • Salt
  • 3 large or 4 smaller bunches kale, any type (about 1½ pounds)
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 ounces spaghetti, bucatini, or other long strand pasta
  • Parmesan and crushed red pepper flakes (for serving)
  • Salt


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, strip kale leaves from ribs and stems, then tear leaves crosswise into 2″–3″ pieces. Cook kale in boiling water until bright green and slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Using tongs, transfer kale to a colander and rinse under cold water, tossing; squeeze out excess liquid from leaves. Keep water at a boil (you’ll use it for the pasta).
  2. Whack garlic with the side of a chef’s knife to crush; peel off skins. Heat ¼ cup oil in a large heavy pot over medium. Cook garlic, stirring occasionally, until sizzling, about 3 minutes. Season very generously with black pepper and cook, smashing with a wooden spoon, until cloves break into rough pieces, soften, and look golden. Add kale to pot and cook, stirring often, until darkened in color and very tender, about 8 minutes (garlic will break into even smaller pieces). Season with kosher salt and pepper.
  3. Meanwhile, cook pasta, stirring occasionally, until very al dente (2–3 minutes less than package directions).
  4. Using tongs, add pasta to kale; splash in about 1 cup pasta cooking liquid. Cook, tossing and adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until sauce lightly coats pasta, about 2 minutes.
  5. Serve pasta topped with Parmesan, red pepper flakes, sea salt, and more black pepper. Makes 4 servings.

Cook’s Note: You know how I love to add things to recipes. I would readily add cherry tomatoes or mushrooms to this with the garlic, before the kale. Either one would give you an added dimension of flavor and texture.

If you’re in the mood for something a little more complicated, but infinitely delicious, you might like to try this minestrone recipe with kale. It takes a bit longer to make, but it’s so full of good seasonal veggies that it could just be worth the extra effort. Especially those cooler evenings that you know are coming soon.

Check out our recipe archive for more healthy recipes with kale.