Orecchiette with Turkey Sausage & Kale


Are you feeling a bit overwhelmed this month? Maybe the kids are back to school with activities galore and the entire family is going in 100 directions at once. Or, maybe like me, your work schedule has gotten crazy and you just don’t feel like there is enough time in the day to get it all done. Believe me, there isn’t enough time. I’ve done the math!

When my life starts feeling a bit out of control I have found there are three things that keep me from becoming a total wreck:

1. Get enough sleep (I NEED EIGHT HOURS!!)
2. Try to exercise (or at least stretch) every day.
3. Sit down for real meals and eat healthy food.

The exercise part is always my biggest challenge, which is why you will never see me writing a fitness blog. If only I liked exercising as much as I like cooking…

As for the healthy eating part, that’s a little easier. I try to stay away from prepared foods (and drive-thru windows) and prepare quick, easy, low-fat dinners like Orecchiette with Turkey Sausage & Kale instead. 

I find that sipping a gin and tonic while chopping onions and sautéing kale is a great way to unwind (and get an upper body workout at the same time), and I feel good knowing I’ll have enough pasta leftover for lunch, too.

Traditional Orecchiette & Sausage dishes are made with spicy pork Italian sausage. To lower the fat content and the cholesterol but keep the protein, I use Jennie-O Italian Seasoned Ground Turkey (it is very mild) and then just add chili flakes to spice up the flavor. If you don’t like spicy, simply omit the chili flakes for a very mild dish.

This pasta has no real sauce (i.e. it’s very easy to make). The ingredients are simply bound together by a little pasta water, the juice from three Roma tomatoes, and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. I recommend buying high quality orecchiette made from 100% durham wheat semolina. You’ll get more starch off this pasta which will help the water make a better “sauce”.

As for the kale, pick your favorite – dinosaur, black, curly – whatever is available. One serving of kale contains 88% of your daily vitamin C, plus, kale is loaded with antioxidents and is a good source of vitamin A, K, and even calcium. All good!

The idea for this dish comes from Giada De Laurentiis’ Orecchiette with Spicy Sausage and Broccoli Rabe, found in Everyday Italian: 125 Simple and Delicious Recipes. I got additional inspiration from a recipe on the blog We Are Never Full.

Serve this delicious meal hot or cold. It’s simple, satisfying, and good for you, too.

Like this recipe? You might also like these:
White Wine Spaghetti
Italian Sweet & Sour Pork with Pappardelle

Orecchiette with Turkey Sausage & Kale
Recipe Type: Main Dish, Pasta, Easy Recipe
Author: A Passionate Plate
Serves: 4-6
  • 1 package (20 oz.) Jennie-O Italian Seasoned Ground Turkey
  • 8 oz. high quality orecchiette pasta
  • 1 small bunch kale, ribs removed, & torn into small pieces (4+ cups)
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, cored and cut into medium dice
  • 1 small onion, peeled and cut into medium dice
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the orecchiette and cook according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbsp. of olive oil in a large sauté pan. When the oil is hot, add the onion and ground turkey. Cook, stirring frequently to break up the sausage.
  3. When most of the sausage is no longer pink, stir in the garlic, chili flakes, diced tomato and kale. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the kale is wilted and tender – about two minutes.
  4. Drain the pasta, reserving 2 cups of the pasta water.
  5. In a large bowl, toss the sausage mixture, orecchiette, Parmesan, and just enough pasta water to make a “sauce”.
  6. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese and chili flakes if desired.


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  3. Lynn says:

    I love Giada’s recipe. This lredo looks super yummy! Where in Seattle did you find the Italian seasoned ground turkey?

    • MaryMiller says:

      Hi, Lynn – I just buy Jennie-O Italian seasoned turkey at my local QFC store. It seems to be available everywhere. It would be nice to find a meat shop that made more fresh sausage out of turkey. I like Isernio’s chicken sausage, but they don’t do a spicy Italian.

  4. I love sipping wine while making dinner…this looks fantastic.

    • MaryMiller says:

      Hi, Cathy – I meant to reply to you yesterday, but I have been under a huge deadline at work. Definitely plan on sipping some wine tonight! TGIF.

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