collard stem pasta no waste kitchen

If I were giving this post the serious clickbait treatment, the tag line here would be, “Not cooking your kale stems? You’re missing out!” Or maybe: “The kale technique no one ever told you about!” “The one thing you should be doing with kale!” “Your secret weapon for weeknight pasta!” And so on.

All food hype aside, here’s the gist: Put your kale and collard stems in your pasta.

For ages, I’ve been meaning to try this. Now that I have, I can say the results surpassed my expectations. When thinly sliced, those stripped kale, collard, mustard, and turnip green stems that are too thick to go in greens recipes (and usually get tossed) are simply splendid on their own with pasta. The flavor is sweeter and milder than the leaves and the crisp-tender crunch of the “coins” plays off the chewiness of the pasta.

Practically speaking, pasta’s the way to go. Sure, you could boil or steam the coins and eat them straight, but the amount you get from a couple of bunches doesn’t add up to much. (Though it’s still something.)

The sliced stem coins will keep nearly a week in the fridge, meaning you can chop them up at the same time as the greens, then add them to recipes whenever you like. And once you know the coins cook to a steamed green bean texture in 4 to 6 minutes (depending on thickness), you can substitute them for other vegetables in soups and stews, omelets and quiches (boil, steam, or sauté beforehand).

Orecchiette with Collard Stem Coins and Crispy Prosciutto

Not only do the stripped stems of greens (collards here, but also kale, turnip, mustard…you name it) work with pasta, they’re tasty enough (and convenient enough) for me to actively choose to make my pasta with them. The smallish ear-shaped orecchiette work especially well in this recipe because the curved shape keeps the collard coins from gobbing up at the bottom of the bowl. But really, this recipe is just a blueprint for how to use greens stems in a pasta recipe.

2 Tbs. olive oil
½ cup diced prosciutto
1 small clove garlic, minced (1/2 tsp.)
1 cup (1/4 lb.) orecchiette pasta
1 cup collard rib coins (stems cut into 1/3-inch thick pieces)
salt, pepper
grated Parmesan, optional

1. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the prosciutto, and sauté 3 to 4 minutes, or until browned and crispy. Add the garlic, and sauté 30 seconds.

2. Meanwhile, cook the orecchiette pasta according to package directions. Five minutes before the pasta is done, add the collard coins to the boiling pasta water.

3. Drain the pasta and collard coins, reserving some of the cooking water. Add both to the prosciutto and garlic, and toss to coat, stirring in 2 to 3 Tbs. of the pasta cooking water to moisten the dish. Season with salt and generously with pepper, and sprinkle with Parmesan, if desired. Serves 2