An irresistible pasta recipe made with chicken sausage, kale, onion, garlic, smoked paprika, thyme and chipotle in a sweet potato “cream” sauce.
For the past few years, I’ve resisted massaging kale. But I’m okay with it now.
I had my first kale massaging experience thanks to this pasta dish inspired by a recipe from How Sweet It Is. It’s been a big hit in our house. I have to say, I’m surprised because I didn’t think a sweet potato cream sauce would go over well but it did. I knew I would like it, but then how can you not like this combination of flavors – sweet potatoes, sausage and kale. Sounds like a soup I made recently. And a gratin – minus the sausage.
You can go two ways with this recipe – make crispy kale for a topping or sautéed kale to mix in. Or you can mix the crispy kale into your pasta bowl. So many options. I’ve done it every which way and can’t decide which I like best. Crisping the kale does add one more bowl and sheet pan to the dishwashing duties so that’s why I’ve been going with the sauté method lately. But I love the crunch of crispy kale in contrast to the creamy pasta. Plus, the leftover crispy kale makes a great snack or sandwich ingredient.
I made a few changes to the original recipe:
- Sometimes I sautéed the kale instead of crisping it.
- Substituted onion for shallot.
- Added thyme.
- Added sausage. Once I used chicken apple sausage which adds a touch of sweetness and another time I added chicken Italian sausage which adds a bit of spicy heat. Pancetta or bacon would be good additions too.
- Substituted Parmesan cheese for the Romano cheese.
- Added smoked paprika and chipotle en adobo for some smoky heat.
I love the idea of sesame oil as one of the ingredients. In the original recipe, Jessica used it as part of the kale rub. When I’m not crisping the kale, I add it to the sauté mix.
You might notice that the roux ingredients aren’t following the usual ratio of 1:1 fat to flour. Don’t worry, the puréed sweet potato really thickens up the sauce.
Smoky Sweet Potato Cream Pasta with Sausage and Kale
You’ll need a steamer insert and a medium pot, large pot for pasta (or reuse the steamer pot), large skillet and whisk.
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 1” cubes, about 1-1/2 cups or 1/2 pound
- 1 bunch of kale or other greens, leaves torn from stems, washed, dried and sliced into roughly 1” ribbons, about 1/2 pound of kale
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons + 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon + 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon + 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 pound whole wheat penne, fettuccine or linguine
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 onion, chopped, about 1 cup
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 garlic cloves, minced, about 1 tablespoon
- 1-1/2 cups 2% milk
- 6.5 (or more) ounces chicken or turkey sausage (Italian, smoked or apple), sliced into 1/2” pieces
- 1 large chipotle en adobo, minced with sauce
Steam the sweet potato for 6-8 minutes, or until the cubes are soft. Mash the sweet potato until it’s a smooth consistency.
If you would like to crisp the kale instead of sautéing it, preheat your oven to 350. In a large bowl, toss the kale, sesame oil, 2 tablespoons Parmesan, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper with your hands and massage the kale for 1-2 minutes, until all the kale is covered evenly with the other ingredients. Spread the kale on a two baking sheets (so the kale will crisp instead of steaming) and bake for 15-18 minutes, tossing 1-2 times while cooking, until the kale is crispy. Remove from the oven and set aside. Don’t add it to the skillet – you’re going to top the serving bowls with the crispy kale.
Bring pasta water to a boil and prepare pasta according to the box directions.
While the kale is roasting, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-low heat in a large skillet. Add onions, thyme, smoked paprika with a pinch of salt, and cook for 4-5 minutes until starting to soften. Add the garlic and cook 1-2 minutes, until golden.
Increase the heat to medium and add the flour, whisking constantly to incorporate it into the onion mixture to create a roux. Cook for 2-3 minutes so you know the flour is cooked (you won’t be able to see it turn color because of the smoked paprika). Add the sweet potato purée, sesame oil (if you didn’t already add it to the roasting kale) and milk, and whisk to combine.
While whisking, let the mixture come to a simmer so it thickens a bit, but be careful because it thickens quickly. If it becomes too thick, add a little milk or pasta water to thin it out. Reduce heat to low. Now it’s time to add the kale if you haven’t already crispened it. Also add the sausage, 1/2 cup Parmesan, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.
Once the pasta is finished cooking, stir it into the skillet of sweet potato sauce, kale, sausage and other ingredients. Let the flavors meld for a few minutes, and then transfer everything to a large or individual serving bowls. Top the bowls with crispy kale.
If you have leftover crispy kale, it makes a great snack. Or add it to eggs or sandwiches like I did.
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