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.
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.
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.
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.
More easy, flavorful pasta dinners ~
- Easy Pasta Alla Checca
- Spaghetti Peperonata with Tuna and Olives
- Easy Pasta Bolognese
- Shrimp Scampi Fra Diavlo
Kale and Pancetta Pasta with Lemon and Garlic
- 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
- 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.