Orecchiette with Sausage & Kale Pesto

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Today was a beautiful Fall day for a walk. I’ve been waiting for our Indian Summer, and I think we got a taste this afternoon. Let’s see what happens the next few days, because it looks like Thursday’s and Friday’s temperatures will climb up to a warm 22 C (71 F) and 18 C (64 F). There’s our Indian Summer…!

One of our favourite places to walk to is this little pond near our home. There are a few private homes that back in to the water – how gorgeous! I can only dream of someday, maybe, living here along the banks. That day may never happen, I know. So, we are here just to watch and admire. We are waiting for the foliage to turn 50 shades of crimson and gold.

We made a pit stop at our community park, where there’s a huge playground with wooden castles, slides, and swings. Naturally, as the days get cooler and cooler, the playground is looking emptier. But the kids and I quite like this – when we have the whole place to ourselves to run around…

It’s so sad that earlier this year (March 2012), one bored 19-year-old boy set the big castle on fire at 3 a.m. (see photos below. Photo credits and article here) It seems like such an evil, malicious deed. Why would one want to destroy a place where children feel a sense of joy, comfort, and friendship?

But with the help of local business Canadian Tire, contractor-and-TV-personality Mike Holmes, and the community, the big castle was rebuilt just in time for the summer. Mike Holmes’ HGTV show, Holmes Makes It Right, aired the “Building Castles” episode today, which showed the reconstruction project. The new castle is the giant “blonde” wooden structure at the far end…

After our day at the park, we stopped by a local farmers’ market to pick up some seasonal produce, like this Tuscan kale. Also known as black kale, Italian kale, dinosaur kale, or cavolo nero, this wrinkly-textured leafy plant has a mild flavour that lends well to salads and pestos.

Tuscan kale, according to drweil.com, “is extraordinarily nutritious: a cup provides more than 100 percent of the daily value (DV) of vitamins K and A, and 88 percent of the DV for vitamin C. Like other members of the brassica family such as cabbage, collards and Brussels sprouts, kale is a rich source of organosulfur compounds that have been linked to cancer prevention.” More of its benefits here. So, eat up!

To bump up the nutritional value of my Tuscan kale pesto, I added omega-rich walnuts to it (optional). I used orecchiette (little ears) pasta so that the gentle curves will catch just the right amount of pesto and crumbled sausages.

We love this pasta hot, but we have no problem eating it at room temperature. Which means, it is great for packing – for picnics and school lunches! Also, it tastes a lot better on the second day, when all the flavours meld into each other.

So, the kids and I sat by one of the ponds near our home, and we picked on our “little ears” until there were none left. I looked around, then I looked at all three of them – my kids. I can’t believe I have three! I am grateful for each and every day that we do not go hungry. And I am truly fortunate to have a home in a beautiful neighbourhood, and that I have a steady income to pay down my mortgage. I cannot imagine living elsewhere in the city that’s as green and lush and natural as where we are now, without being far from the action. We want to grow old here.

What about you, dear readers? Do you love living where you are? Have you tried Tuscan kale before?

5.0 from 7 reviews
Orecchiette with Sausage and Tuscan Kale Pesto
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe Type: Pasta
Serves: 4 to 6
  • 3 cups (85 g) Tuscan kale, blanched*
  • 1 cup (30 g) fresh basil
  • 4 garlic cloves, whole
  • ¼ cup pine nuts or walnuts
  • ½ cup (45 g) Pecorino Romano cheese
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound (454 g) orecchiette pasta
  • 4 sausage links, casings removed
  • 4 tablespoons dry white wine like Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, or Chardonnay
  1. Bring a pot of water to boil over high heat. Prepare another bowl full of ice for the ice bath.
  2. Cut off the tough stems from the Tuscan kale. And pick the basil leaves from the stems, discarding any that are damaged.
  3. When water is boiling, add the Tuscan kale and blanch for 15 seconds. Remove and plunge in the ice bath for 15 seconds and drain in a colander. Roughly chop the kale.
  4. Next, add the basil leaves in the boiling water for 5 seconds, until wilted. Scoop out and drain in a sieve. When cool enough to handle, squeeze dry and set aside.
  5. Cut each garlic clove in half and plunge in boiling water for 15 seconds, then transfer to the ice bath to cool.
  6. Put the kale, basil, nuts, garlic, cheese, and olive oil in the bowl of a food processor and purée until smooth.
  7. Transfer into containers for storage. Will keep well in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.
  8. To make pasta, bring a large pot of water to boil and season with salt. Add the orecchiete pasta and cook for about 8 to 11 minutes, or according to package directions.
  9. Reserve about 1 cup of the cooking water. Drain the pasta.
  10. Wipe the same pot clean and heat on medium high. Add a little bit of olive oil to the pan.
  11. When oil is hot, add the sausages, crumble with a wooden spoon, and cook until browned all over.
  12. Add 2 scant cups of the pesto and stir. Immediately add 4 tablespoons of white wine and cook until the alcohol has evaporated, about 1 to 2 minutes. Then, add half the reserved cooking water (about ½ cup) to loosen the pesto. Stir well.
  13. Put the pasta back into the pot and toss until well-combined, adding more pasta water if needed.


  • Reply October 23, 2012

    Laura (Tutti Dolci)

    I love orecchiette, the sausage and kale pesto are perfect toppings!

  • Reply October 23, 2012


    Hehe such a fancy name for such a cute pasta! I’m always looking for new ways to eat kale – does Tuscan kale taste similar to regular kale?

  • Reply October 23, 2012


    Absolutely love the recipe but even more the newfound knowledge that cavolo nero can be used as a salad vegetable. Since it is hard to get here Down Under, planted pots and pots some weeks ago: the leaves are at a delightful stage for early cutting: so tomorrow’s lunch! Oh and thank you for those delightful photos!!

  • Reply October 23, 2012


    I simply love your photos my friend, everything is so crisp and fresh 😀
    As for that pasta, it is as always stunning!


  • Reply October 23, 2012


    Yes, I love where I’m living and I love this variety of kale! Your area looks beautiful as does this pasta dish;-)
    Great news that the castle was rebuilt and it’s hard to understand why a young man would destroy a children’s play area, loved your post- I always look forward to your recipes, stories and photos;-)

  • Reply October 23, 2012

    The Kitchen Boudoir

    Beautiful photos and recipe – will have to try it with the last kale harvest from my garden. Looks like we share a neighbourhood too! I LOVE High Park and have sought solace and felt joy there often. Perhaps I’ll see you around…:)

  • Nice read, Jen. I always enjoy getting glimpses of your area. I do like where I live, too. I sometimes forget when wanderlust strikes how nice it is around me. Then I get home from a long trip and realize, yeah, okay. I love coming home to this. :)

    Orecchiette pasta is one of my favorites and how perfect for the pesto. Love tuscan kale, too. Must add sausage next time. Great idea!

  • Reply October 23, 2012


    Jen, I love that mug and saucer! I’m kind of obsessed with anything that’s grey and speckled with other colors. It the perfect vessel for your beautiful pasta. And thank you for the reminder to eat kale more often!

    What an enchanting playground! (And so pristine!) I think I would still have fun playing in the castle…I’m probably short enough to fit inside. 😀

    Where ever I find myself, I always wonder what life would be like elsewhere. I think it’s my anxiety-laced ocd, always telling not to get too comfortable, or else… Maybe I’m just still searching for my niche.

  • Oh, I’m so sorry to hear about your neighborhood playground! That’s so awful. The same thing happened to the one in our neighborhood- The McKinley Park playground in Sacramento, CA. What are people like that thinking??!! :(

  • Reply October 23, 2012


    I am so glad that I found your blog. I enjoyed browsing through your posts and all your pictures are so good. That’s a good looking pasta and love the vessel you served it in. So apt and goes well with the mood.

    I will be back often to check your recipes. Let’s stay connected.

  • Reply October 23, 2012

    amy @ fearless homemaker

    I love how orecchiette ‘holds’ sauces so well, so it’s one of my favorite pastas. This looks absolutely divine!

  • Reply October 23, 2012

    Chocolate Shavings

    Orecchiette is my all-time favourite pasta – I could go for a bowl right now! Love your posts – the photos are gorgeous and it’s always nice to read fellow Torontonian food blogs!

  • Reply October 23, 2012

    Cass @foodmyfriend

    Some people are just so selfish! Love this recipe. I wouldn’t put the sausage in but it sounds like it would be delicious without it!

  • Reply October 23, 2012

    Phenomenal Mama

    You are indeed lucky to live near such a wonderful scenery. I always love reading your posts about your family and looking at your photos. You always leave me chuckling about how you can do it all. :)

    • Reply October 24, 2012


      Same sentiments… how do you do it??!
      I wish we have a nice park like that in our neighborhood.

  • Reply October 23, 2012


    Very nice and healthy pasta dish

  • Reply October 23, 2012


    Jen, nice post and photos of your area plus great recipe. I haven’t tried Italian kale before nor the pasta. I do love where I live in many ways but wish I was closer to town since we do a lot of driving to get to school, church etc. I do love the open space and how it feels. But I am a born and raised CA. beach girl, so I do really miss living close to the ocean and if I could I would move to the beach.

  • Reply October 23, 2012


    What a beautiful walking place! I bet the colors are beautiful! We took the day off yesterday and drove up along the river for the colors. I’ll be posting some colors soon. Great pics of the kale- my favorite kale! Your orecchiette looks fabulous!

  • Reply October 24, 2012

    Jen @ Savory Simple

    What a perfect sounding pasta! It’s great the castle was rebuilt.

  • I can’t wait to try this pasta, it sounds wonderful! So sad to see what destructive people can do sometimes. Glad the park was fixed, and you can go there with your kids!

  • What a wonderful pasta dish! I have not eaten dinner yet and now I am super hungry. This is a winner dish in my book. So happy to hear that the castle was rebuilt! :-)

  • Reply October 25, 2012

    Kiran @ KiranTarun.com

    LOVE the use of kale in this recipe!!

  • Reply October 25, 2012


    I love the look of your local park Jen! So spacious and I’m glad the castle got rebuilt :-). Your neighbourhood sounds gorgeous.

  • Orecchiette has become one of my favorite pastas, and I can’t wait to try it in this way. As always, Jen, your photos are a joy to look at – just beautiful!

  • Reply October 25, 2012


    This looks delightful! We just brought back orecchietta from Italy. With it, this might be dinner tonight!

  • Beautiful pasta dish, Jen! Love the walnuts in it!

  • Orecchiette is one of my favorite pasta. I do love how those curves catch the sauce properly. My, what an awful boy that is! To set fire on a kid’s playground is too crazy! It’s good that they rebuilt it soon enough.

  • Reply October 27, 2012

    Deepshikha D

    Lovely pictures! The orecchiette looks so delicious, and it’s great that it’s healthy too!

  • Reply October 27, 2012

    The Higley Kitchen

    Meat, cheese, walnuts and pesto. Pinch me I must be dreaming.
    Fantastic recipe and really crisp images.

  • Reply October 29, 2012

    Nami | Just One Cookbook

    I’ve never tried Orecchiette before but will definitely try – something new is always good! I love healthy pasta like this and this is probably the only way my kids will eat kale in a big amount. I like where we live but really miss fall colors around here. But can’t complain too much since winter is not as cold as other areas where they get nice fall… :) So sad to hear that beautiful playground was destroyed. My kids will love that park – looks fun!

  • Reply October 29, 2012


    Made this tonight and it was incredible! I did make a few changes though, I added some sautéed crimini mushrooms, and instead of the Pecorino Romano, I substituted Sartori BellaVitano Gold. I also used the pine nuts instead of the walnuts, and used some chicken apple chardonnay sausages instead of pork sausage. My wife and I both loved it; I will certainly be making this again!

  • Reply November 4, 2012


    What a beautiful area you live in – the park is amazing, your children are so lucky!

    We love our home, we too are a quick walk to the park, beach & track & field (literally right next door) along with a short walk to my parents & gram’s house.

    I have a big batch of pili kale pesto in the freezer, I need to use it up and your recipe looks perfect to do this!

  • Reply February 25, 2014


    I received Tuscan kale in my vegetable box and found your recipe while looking for a way to use it. It was perfect! Love the combination of the kale pesto with Italian sausage.

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