The Foodie Physician: Dining with the Doc: Orecchiette with Kale, Turkey Sausage and Gremolata Breadcrumbs

Dining with the Doc: Orecchiette with Kale, Turkey Sausage and Gremolata Breadcrumbs

This dish is the kind of classic, comfort food that I love to eat.  My go-to supper is usually some kind of pasta and this dish is one of my all time favorites.  It features orecchiette, a pasta from southern Italy that means “little ears” because of its unique shape.  Orecchiette has a curved contour with a thinner center and slightly thicker outer edge, giving it a pleasant chewy texture.

I toss the orecchiette with one of my favorite vegetables- kale.  I like to use Tuscan kale in this dish, also known as Lacinato or Dinosaur kale.  A powerhouse of nutrients, it’s more delicate and less bitter than traditional curly kale (but you can use any type of kale that you have).  To read all about the health benefits of kale, click here.  It works beautifully in this dish complemented by the spicy turkey sausage, bright lemon and nutty Pecorino Romano cheese. 

To top it all off, I sprinkle the finished dish with my homemade gremolata breadcrumbs.  Gremolata is a traditional Italian condiment made with lemon zest, garlic and parsley that is typically served on top of meat dishes.  I add toasted whole wheat breadcrumbs to this delightful mixture and the result is a crunchy, lemony topping that adds a lot of flavor and texture to the finished pasta dish.

So the next time you’re staying in, curl up with a big bowl of this comforting, hearty pasta and enjoy. 

Orecchiette with Kale, Turkey Sausage and Gremolata Breadcrumbs
Makes 8 servings

1 lb. orecchiette pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 package sweet Italian turkey sausage (1.2 lbs), removed from casings
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (depending on how spicy you like it)
1 bunch Tuscan kale (1 lb), chopped
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese (can substitute Parmigiano Reggiano)

Bring a large pot filled with salted water to boil over high heat.  Add the orecchiette and cook until al dente.  Drain the pasta, reserving approximately 1 cup of the pasta water.
Heat ½ tablespoon olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat.  Add the sausage and cook until browned, breaking it up as it cooks.  Remove sausage from the pan and set aside in a bowl.  Drain any fat in the pan.

Add the remaining 1½ tablespoons oil to the pan.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the kale and toss to coat with the oil.  Sauté 1-2 minutes, then add the chicken broth and cover the pan. Cook until the kale is wilted, approximately 6-8 minutes.  Add the lemon juice and season the kale with salt and pepper to taste.
Add the sausage, orecchiette, and pecorino romano cheese to the pan and toss to combine all ingredients well.  Stir in the reserved pasta water, a small amount at a time until the pasta is coated.  Serve the pasta with gremolata breadcrumbs sprinkled on top.      

Gremolata Breadcrumbs:
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small clove garlic, minced
½ cup fresh breadcrumbs from whole wheat bread*
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 tablespoon minced parsley
Kosher salt to taste

To make the gremolata breadcrumbs, heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant.  Add the breadcrumbs and stir to combine.  Toast until breadcrumbs are golden brown, then remove from heat and toss with the lemon zest, parsley, and salt to taste.  

* To make the fresh breadcrumbs, remove the crusts from 2 slices of bread and cut the bread into pieces.  Pulse in a food processor for 10-15 seconds until crumbs form. 

One serving: Calories 419; Fat 11.3g; Sat 2.9g; Protein 24.9g; Carbs 51.7g; Fiber 3.4g


  1. Kale is our favorite vegetable, thanks for introducing it to us.You make the recipe sound so easy to put together, I cannot wait to try it.

  2. You always make healthy look delicious! Thank you for linking up at our Ladies Night Celebration . We hope you come back this week and share your favorite cocktails, appetizers and treats!!!




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