Collard Pesto with Orecchiette Pasta

Living in the south, I know all about collards and eat them on a regular basis. In fact a fellow farmer's market vendor keeps me supplied all winter season long in south Florida. When I originally came across a recipe using collard greens from Epicurious I was excited to find another way to use this amazing leafy green.  Someone from Mississippi living in Italy was a bit homesick and decided to make a southerner version of a classic Italian sauce. Collards like kale are from the cabbage family and in Italian they are translated as "cabbage without the head."

I was unhappy with how bland his version was and decided to take things into my own hands. This is a time consuming recipe but so worth the effort if you use the quality ingredients it calls for. You will need a food processor,

Makes enough for 3 lbs of pasta. Divide it and freeze for future use.

  • 30 large fresh collard greens, ribs removed and chopped OR 2 bags chopped fresh collards ** If you are using a professional or powerful food processor, like a Cuisinart,  you will not have to chop the collards.
  • 7 large garlic stuffed olives, Costco sells a brand that also has a few sliced red peppers in the jar
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup grated parmigiano cheese, up to 3/4 if you really like it cheesy
  • 1/2 teas fresh ground pepper
  • sea salt to taste and for salting the water to boil the collards (about 2 teas)
  • 1 lb of orecchiette pasta, this is the proper shape to use, these "little ears" will hold the pesto sauce just right

Bring 8 cups of water to boil with 1 1/2 teas of the sea salt in  a tall stock pot or otherwise your largest pot available.

Boil the collards for about 15 minutes until they are tender enough to chew.

Drain them and cool for about 20 to 30 minutes. Squeeze them with your hand to remove as much excess water as possible and then put them in the food processor with the olives, the garlic, the chili paste and the balsamic vinegar. (If you have some pickled peppers in your olive jar throw a few in as well.)

Begin blending and slowly adding the olive oil. Add in the cheese once the olive oil has been completely added. Continue blending until smooth.

Add the ground pepper and sea salt to taste. Divide into 3 parts, freeze 2 of them.

Prepare the pasta as directed until al dente. Before draining reserve about 1 1/2 cups of the salted pasta water.

In  a bowl toss the orecchiette with the collard pesto and blend in some of the hot pasta water mixing it in to keep the pasta moist but not so much that the sauce becomes runny.

Serve immediately finishing with an EVOO drizzle and a quick sprinkle of coarse sea salt. Buon appetito y'all !