Victoria’s love of helping in the kitchen is such a blessing. She’s 4, so it’s not like she takes over the work. Still, working together in the kitchen means that I get to spend more time with her and have more time to make dinner, both good things.
Victoria has wonderful fine motor skills for her age, and can be very careful and patient. This means I can give her meaningful tasks to do, sometimes involving sharp objects.
For this pasta dish, Victoria can do the following tasks:
Strip and wash the kale
Slice the garlic
Grate the cheese
Stir the braising kale
I do the fine mincing of the garlic, and I usually do some of the cheese grating, as I can press harder and get more volume in a shorter amount of time.
The basic idea is one we got from — Gasp! — Rachael Ray, though she uses broccoli rabe:
While boiling 1 lb. rigatoni,
Wilt kale in large skillet with water, drain kale
Use large skillet to saute some garlic, return kale to pan, keep warm
Before draining pasta, reserve about 1 c. cooking water
After draining pasta, stir 1 15 oz. container ricotta cheese in with some cooking water in the pasta pot (this takes some careful attention, or you just end up with milky water; maintain some lumps and add water slowly)
While ricotta is still lumpy, add kale-garlic mixture, about 1/4-1/2 lb. chopped hard salami (we used sopresseta last night, which was sliced a bit to thin and was not quite strongly flavored enough), and shredded parmesan (either use good, flavorful parmesan or use a goodly amount to balance the ricotta)
Stir rigatoni back in, serve sprinkled with more parmesan and (if desired) red pepper flakes.
Voila! (I’m still working on my food photography skills, which are in no way mad.) If my kids were more uniform in their willingness to eat spicy food, I’d put in the red pepper flakes with the cooking kale, but there is just no predicting when they will tear into something spicy and when they will reject it at first sniff.
I was really glad to discover/play with this recipe. We had not done a lot with ricotta and pasta unless I was making a baked pasta. It’s also pretty good with a tomato sauce topping (after everything else is mixed), though in that case I prefer to leave out any salami. The kids love it. We always need ways to Eat More Kale (I am totally getting the t-shirt — I really am a kale lover).