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Kale and Pancetta Pasta with Lemon and Garlic




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Kale and Pancetta Pasta with Lemon and Garlic ~ this recipe doesn’t have many ingredients, but the combination of flavors is bold and satisfying.  Pasta rules the 30 minute dinner world at our house.

Most of us know instinctively that food doesn’t have to be complicated to be delicious.

A simple pasta is my absolute go-to for everyday dinners, and I love having a few power-packed combinations of flavors to lean on to make a simple dinner really shine.  You can cook up the ‘sauce’ in the time it takes the pasta to boil.

Sauteing pacetta and kale.

What is pancetta?

  • Pancetta is cured pork belly that differs from bacon in that it’s not smoked, and is usually sold in much thicker slices.  Pancetta can be kept in the freezer so it’s always handy.
  • You could definitely substitute bacon in this recipe, though, or any other protein you like.  Leftover ham, or sausage would also work well.
  • Make it vegan by substituting mushrooms or toasted pine nuts.

This easy pasta dish isn’t too far off from the flavor profile of my Brussels Sprout Carbonara, which I adore. I think greens play really nicely with salty, sweet pancetta.

Other super healthy greens to use in this Mediterranean inspired pasta recipe

You could substitute spinach here, or something like Swiss chard or collard greens would be great too. In Italy they will sometimes use lettuce or other delicate salad greens which makes this an incredibly versatile dish.

Serving Kale and Pancetta Pasta.

3 ingredients that take pasta to the next level

I love ingredients like fresh lemon, red pepper flakes, and authentic Parmegiano-Reggiano (not the cheap stuff) for their ability to take a dish like this from good to great super easily. That extra dash of flavor makes a big difference, without requiring any extra effort.

A bowl of Kale and Pancetta Pasta with Parmesan cheese.

How to make a simple pasta feel luxurious ~

Have you ever made a simple pasta without a sauce and thought it was just sort of lacking something? One of my secrets to making a minimalist pasta dish like this feel rich and hearty, even without sauce, is to add some cream to the cooked kale and pancetta just before tossing everything together.

As you can tell from the pictures, this isn’t a creamy pasta at all, but there’s a little cream tossed in at the end which gives just a bit of extra body and richness to the pasta. You can totally skip it if you’re counting calories, but a little bit goes a long way.

A bowl of Kale and Pancetta Pasta.

More easy, flavorful pasta dinners ~

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5 from 12 votes

Kale and Pancetta Pasta with Lemon and Garlic

Kale and Pancetta Pasta with Lemon and Garlic ~ this recipe doesn’t have many ingredients, but the combination of flavors is bold and satisfying.  Pasta rules the 30 minute dinner world at our house.
Course dinner
Cuisine American
Total Time 30 minutes
Yield 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chopped pancetta (or substitute bacon), about 1/2 pound
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 8 cups kale, shredded (loosely packed)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice (or the juice of about half a lemon)
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb spaghetti, cooked al dente
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • shaved parmesan cheese, for serving

Instructions

  • Saute the pancetta over medium/medium-low heat until crispy and fully cooked.
  • Lower the heat and add the minced garlic, and saute for a minute or two. (Be careful about adding the garlic to a very hot pan, as it can burn easily.) I keep all the rendered fat from the pancetta in this recipe, but if you have more than a couple tablespoons worth in your pan, you may want to pour a bit of it off.
  • Add the shredded kale to the pan, toss with the pancetta and garlic, and continue to saute for just a couple minutes until the kale is wilted and lightly cooked.
  • Add the cream, lemon juice, and red pepper flakes, and toss everything to combine.
  • Toss the cooked spaghetti with the kale and pancetta. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve with parmesan cheese, and extra lemon, if desired.

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13 Comments

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  • Reply
    LISA AMORE
    July 22, 2020 at 10:00 am

    5 stars
    I made this last night, and also splashed in some Pinot Grigio with the cream at the very end to give the flavors one more boost. The dish was spectacular!!!

  • Reply
    Cindy
    June 28, 2020 at 12:45 pm

    Hi Sue! This sounds yummy and I will be making it tonight! Will send comment following. 🙂

    • Reply
      Cindy
      July 4, 2020 at 12:19 pm

      5 stars
      Sue, it was delicious! I imagine it would be great with mustard greens as well. Thank you!

      • Reply
        Sue
        July 4, 2020 at 1:34 pm

        I never think to cook with mustard greens Cindy, great suggestion.

  • Reply
    Marjorie Simpson-Rousseau
    February 17, 2020 at 11:44 am

    5 stars
    Hi Sue, I just made this recipe for dinner tonight after torturing my husband with the recipe for the past week or two. We live in France (Normandy) and I wasn’t able to find the exact ingredients. So here’s what I did – I used baby kale, a LOT of it (I think regular kale can be too bitter sometimes) . Instead of pancetta, I subbed in thick lardons. (bascially French bacon) Instead of heavy cream, I used fresh creme cru from a local farm. (Think very thick sour cream, but made from raw milk – we’re talking full fat baby!) lol And fresh tagliatelle pasta. Oh my GOSH, this recipe ROCKS!! It’s a keeper that my French hubs has already asked when I will make it again. It was easy, came together quickly, and was absolutely delicious with a capital D. Thanks SO much for sharing this!!! We are true fans of yours by the way. Know that you have friends in France should you ever come this way. Marjorie & Gabriel

    • Reply
      Sue
      February 17, 2020 at 1:38 pm

      Oh my gosh, I’m booking my ticket today 😉 Thanks so much Marjorie!

  • Reply
    Colleen
    February 7, 2020 at 3:32 am

    On the menu for tonight, Sue! Love the simplicity! Might be good with some mushrooms too!

  • Reply
    Anita
    February 6, 2020 at 10:27 am

    5 stars
    I have an almost exact recipe but using spinach, but I think I’m loving the kale version even more. We will be making this often for sure. 🙂

    • Reply
      Sue
      February 6, 2020 at 10:44 am

      So many greens would work in this recipe.

  • Reply
    Pamela
    February 6, 2020 at 10:24 am

    5 stars
    One of my favorite pasta combos – pasta and kale! So delicious!

  • Reply
    Toni
    February 6, 2020 at 10:11 am

    5 stars
    Such an amazing combination of flavors! This is a must-make!

  • Reply
    Angela Allison
    February 6, 2020 at 9:58 am

    5 stars
    Kale and pancetta are the perfect combo for this pasta. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Reply
    Heidy
    February 6, 2020 at 9:21 am

    5 stars
    This pasta looks wonderful! I could eat this a few days in a row!