Finding different vegetable side dishes can be difficult. This Italian Lacinato kale recipe is delicious and easy, and only uses simple ingredients you have right at home! I guarantee you will add this to your weeknight meals.
Kale can be gross. There, I said it. Health food gurus and vegans have taken over the kale movement and maybe they haven't done the best job at advertising it. If kale isn't cooked or prepared correctly, it's dry, hard to chew, and a texture nightmare.
Lacinato kale is perfect for this recipe because it holds up during the cooking process but softens enough that it is palatable and enjoyable to eat! We just combined it with garlic, tomatoes, and lemon to make a delightful side dish. (I swear my son was even eating the tomatoes).
What is Lacinato Kale?
Sometimes referred to as Tuscan kale or dinosaur kale because of its bumpy leaves, It dates back to 18th-century Italy where it was first recorded as being cultivated.
It is more delicate and sweet than curly kale. If you've never liked kale this mild variety would be a great one to try. It is great for braising because of its softer texture. People associate it with earthy and nutty flavors.
It can be stored in your fridge in a loose plastic bag. If I'm not using it in the first day or two, I like to wrap the stems in a wet paper towel. I find that it stays fresher when I do that.
Where to find it
Most grocery stores will carry a variety of kale whether it be bagged or loose greens. I bought this kale at a farmer's market. I am never able to find it at Trader Joe's and I do prefer to buy the loose greens versus a packaged version. The less packaging there is means it took less time to get from the farm to me.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
Kale. It is important to use the Lacinato variety, aka Tuscan kale because of its ideal texture and taste. Curly leaf and red Russian kale are NOT great for braising.
Water. I use water because it doesn't add any extra flavor. It allows the cherry tomatoes and lemon flavor to really come through. Some people ask about chicken broth, but I think it is an unnecessary addition.
Cherry Tomatoes. It is important to identify the differences between cherry and grape tomatoes. A lot of people use them interchangeably but they have very different flavors. Cherry tomatoes are best for this recipe because they are delicate and sweeter.
This recipe is really quick and easy. Make sure all of your ingredients are ready next to you to have the smoothest cooking process. Sometimes this is referred to as mise en place.
Prep the Kale
Prepare the kale by rinsing in cold water and drying it with a paper towel. This is to make sure there is no dirt in the leaves. Then cut the kale in half like the picture shown right below.
If you have small children eating this, it would be safest to cut the kale into bite-sized pieces. As a Speech Pathologist with expertise in swallowing, leafy greens can be really unsafe for little ones or older adults who chew with their mouths open or talk while they're eating. So use your judgment when preparing this.
In a dutch oven on medium heat, add olive oil and wait until shimmering or you can see a light reflection. Stir in the garlic until fragrant, about 1 and a half minutes. You don't want it to all be brown, but a little brown is okay.
When you can smell the garlic, add the cherry tomatoes and squeeze in the juice from the whole lemon. Stir occasionally until the cherry tomatoes begin to slightly break down, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper.
Braising the Kale
Kale recipes often have you blanch the kale, which is another pot and another cooking process. This recipe is great because it eliminates that. Dinosaur kale is perfect for braising and doesn't need to be blanched.
Once the cherry tomatoes have begun to break down, add in the kale and a ¼ cup of water. Save a ¼ cup for later. Cover the pot and let the kale braise for 15 minutes, stirring once at the halfway point.
When you open the pot at the halfway point to stir, you may need to add ¼ cup of water if there is no liquid or very little liquid in the pot. Add the water, close the pot, and braise for another 7-8 minutes or until the kale is tender.
Open the dutch oven, take it off the heat, and add the pat of butter. Stir until it is completely emulsified into the sauce. Remove the kale from the dutch oven and serve!
- Adding the butter at the end of the recipe is the key to a deeper flavor! This will add some shine and richness to the sauce. This process is called Monter au Beurre, which is a French phrase for emulsifying water and cold butter. You can see above exactly how the butter affected the sauce.
What to serve it with
- This lacinato kale recipe goes SWIMMINGLY with seafood (haha). Try serving it alongside some pan-seared snapper, pistachio-crusted seabass, or sea scallops!
- I'd also serve this in the summer when we're doing burgers every weekend! It would be great to get in some vegetables with our bacon blue cheeseburger, goat cheese and fig jam sliders, or the big fat Greek chicken burger!
- I LOVE vegetables alongside my big pastas. Serve this with your Sunday sauce, ragu, or bolognese.
- If you're looking to pair it with another meat, I'd serve it with chicken cutlets, pistachio pesto chicken breast, or chevalatta!
- Serve it alongside one of our other favorites, The Creamiest Mushroom Truffle Risotto!
Yes, you can eat the stems. Chop off the very end that may be dried up. Stems are great to keep for making vegetable broth and soup. They can also be pan-fried and served with beans!
Why don't you blanch the kale first?
Mainly because it is a waste of time. It only takes 15 minutes to braise it without having to use more pots and pans. I like to keep it simple.
What's the best way to store and reheat it?
I reheated mine in the microwave and it was perfect. I'm usually a big proponent for breaking out a pan and slowly warming it up but the microwave worked well for this.
Some favorite healthiER meals
Italian Lacinato Kale Recipe (Tuscan)
- dutch oven or pot
- 1 head lacinato kale
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 lemon
- 3 cloves garlic
- ½ cup water
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Prepare the kale by washing and then cutting the kale in half. In a dutch oven on medium heat, add olive oil and wait until shimmering. Stir in the garlic until fragrant, about 1 and a half minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes and juice from the whole lemon. Stir occasionally until the cherry tomatoes begin to break down slightly about 3 to 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper.
- Once the cherry tomatoes have begun to break down, add in the kale and ¼ cup of water. Save a ¼ cup for later. Cover the pot and let the kale braise for 15 minutes, stirring once at the halfway point. If when you open the pot at the halfway point, there is no liquid, add the rest of the water.
- Open the dutch oven and add the pat of butter. Stir until it is completely melted throughout the sauce. Remove the kale from the dutch oven and serve.