Orange and Cranberry Kale with Pasta and Walnuts

Orange and Cranberry Kale with Pasta and Walnuts
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orange cranberry pasta with walnuts
Orange? Sure, why not!

Kale is showing up in the CSA shares pretty much every week, so we try to think of something new to do with it. This week, we looked a bit on the Internet, where we found the idea of mixing kale with walnuts and pasta. It sounded good, but we thought that the addition of some citrus would help. Originally, we were going to use lemon, but we wanted something slightly sweet to play against the slight bitter taste of kale. We also knew we’d be wanting the zest, and our lemons came from who knows where. We went with orange, also from our CSA share.

While we did look on the Internet for inspiration, nothing there really appealed, and we didn’t do much more than look at the titles, so we can’t really point out the exact site from which this hails. Instead, we’ll consider it a Scratchin’ It original recipe.

Orange and Cranberry Kale with Pasta and Walnuts

Yield: 2-3 servings

Orange and Cranberry Kale with Pasta and Walnuts


  • 1 batch (about 6 ounces dried) fresh pasta dough, cut into spaghetti
  • 1 orange
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 bunch kale, stems removed and chopped
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • freshly ground red pepper, to taste
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries

Abbreviated Instructions

Zest and juice orange and combine in a small bowl. Set aside.

Boil and drain spaghetti, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add kale, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, and cook until wilted and tender, about 5 minutes. Add walnuts, juice, zest, and cranberries and cook until heated through.

Add drained pasta and about 1/4 to 1/2 cup reserved liquid to make a sauce.

Serve immediately in heated bowls.

Ingredient discussion:

drying spaghetti
We decided to go with freshly-made spaghetti (or really, spaghetti alla chitarra) for our pasta. Other shapes will be fine, too.

We used a naturally- grown orange so there would be pesticides on the peel. If you use a commercially grown orange, it’s likely to be coated in wax to make it look glossy, so wash well with soap and water. For the pasta, we did a 50% whole-wheat fresh pasta — it’s only about 15 minutes of work and it tastes better. But, you can use dried, too. And, of course, other shapes. Finally, note that we recommend serving in heated bowls. At one time, we thought this was too much trouble, but it isn’t, at least if you aren’t baking. We just pop them in the oven set to 200°F before starting dinner, turn the oven off when it reaches 200°F, and pull them out for serving. No more difficult than taking them out of the cupboard.

Procedure in detail:

zesting and orange
Microplanes will make short work of zesting, and your thumb, if you aren’t careful.

Zest and juice. We find that a microplane is great for zesting citrus. It’s fast and efficient, but it will also zest your thumb, so use with care. Before we had a microplane, we used a chef’s knife. It was a bit more trouble but doable. After zesting, juice the orange and strain out the seeds. Now, since you’ll be adding the juice and the zest at the same time, you can just combine them in a small bowl and set aside.

Boil pasta. Okay, you should time the pasta so it’ll be done right around the time the kale is ready, probably 8 to 10 minutes. Don’t worry if you’re a bit off; either the pasta or the kale can wait a few minutes. A couple of things: save some of the pasta water — we scoop out some into a measuring cup — and don’t rinse the pasta after draining, because you’ll rinse away some of the sauce- thickening starch.

cooking kale
Cook the kale until it’s wilted and a bit tender, about 5 minutes.

Cook kale. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the kale and sprinkle with a bit of salt, pepper, and that pinch of red pepper flake. Not too much red pepper, unless you like spicy food. Cook and stir, stir and cook, until the kale is wilted and tender, about 5 minutes.

adding walnuts, cranberries, and orange
Cranberries go well with orange, and so do walnuts, so put them all in.

Add walnuts and more. Now, add the walnuts, zest and juice, and the cranberries, and stir and cook until everything is heated through. If you need to hold the kale for a few minutes while the pasta is finishing up, lower the heat.

adding pasta water
Some reserved pasta water is a great way to make a simple sauce for pasta.

Add pasta. Add the cooked pasta and about 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, and, if you don’t have enough sauce, add more pasta water and stir in. If, like us, you didn’t reserve enough liquid, your dish won’t have much of a sauce, but it’ll still be good.

Serve. Divide among heated bowls and serve immediately.

We would have topped this with a bit of Parmesan if we’d had some. Alas, we were out, which is a rarity at Scratchin’ Central. Even without the cheese, this was a  good dish — one of us said “interesting, but good.” That’s a good way to describe it, as it does have a nice orange flavor, which is interesting paired with the pasta. Not what you might expect, but we think it works. And, best of all, it’s a way to eat kale other than sautéed with garlic, which is the most common way you’ll see it on the Internet.

Worth the trouble?

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