I’ve written many times that Southern Italian cooking relies heavily on what has become the avant garde notion of the “Cucina Povera”. Since many items like cream, reggiano and succulent meats would be considered luxury in the poorer south, meals were adapted to make use of what was accessible and affordable.
Toasted breadcrumbs replaced cheese, vegetables were almost always included and meat, though used sparingly, would be cheaper items like nduja or sausage. Today, we’re featuring a version of a Puglian classic.
Pasta alla Puglia
1 pound pasta
4 sausage links
3 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 vidalia onion, diced
1 dozen red cherry tomatoes, halved
1 dozen yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
1 pound baby kale
1 cup toasted panko breadcrumbs
Start by toasting the breadcrumbs in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Drizzle olive oil as needed so they don’t burn. They’ll be toasted in about 5-7 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside. In a pan large enough to hold the finished dish, brown the sausage until almost completely cooked through, remove them and set aside. This can be down well in advance of dinner.
|~ Everything working on the stove – tomatoes halved and at the ready ~
Boil the water for the pasta and while the pasta is cooking, you can finish the condimento. In the pot that you used to brown the sausage, saute the onion and garlic until soft. If you need to, you can deglaze the pot with a splash of wine. (I did) Return the sausage to the pot and then add the kale. It will wilt completely which is what you want because it’ll be easier to sneak it past the kids. Once the pasta is cooked, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta to the pan.
|~ This is the completed dish in the pan just prior to serving ~
Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, add the toasted breadcrumbs (reserve some for garnish) and the raw tomatoes and stir well to combine. The tomatoes will be warm but firm to the bite – another key where the kids are concerned. Plate immediately and serve.
|~ The Chef’s Plate ~
It’s harder to find a healthier more flavorful meal and if you do the breadcrumbs and sausage ahead of time, this entire dish will come together in the time it takes to cook the pasta. Delicious!
We served a Campanian red with this meal that was a perfect match. The wine will be part of an upcoming feature on Campanian reds. Salute!