Tuscan Pesto-Dressed Penne With Crispy Kale — The Weekender

By: Marisa McClellan
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Every year when summer rolls around, I find myself on the hunt for a fresh, seasonal potluck dish. The requirements for the winning dish are that it needs to travel well, taste good whether warm or at room temperature and must not require immediate refrigeration upon arrival at said potluck destination.

Several years ago, I made many batches of a barley salad that included chunks of feta cheese and chopped cucumber. Through summer 2010, I fixated on a dish of made from chickpeas marinated in a vinaigrette made from olive oil, lemon juice and minced rosemary. Last summer, I opted for halved grape tomatoes, red onion and basil dressed lightly with olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.

Each of these salads did an excellent job throughout their particular season, but by the time the cooler weather rolled around, I was ready for something more autumnal.

Happily, I think I stumbled across this summer’s salad just this last weekend, and with the hot weather we’ve been having, its arrival couldn’t be timelier. It’s Rachael Ray’s recipe for Tuscan Pesto-Dressed Penne With Crispy Kale. It’s light and tastes terrific freshly made or after a night in the fridge (I've tried it both ways and it's a winner). The next time you have a summer potluck to attend, stir up this Weekender.

Before you start blending your pesto, here are a few things you should know:

- Rachael’s recipe instructs you to broil your kale in order to crisp it prior to folding into the pasta. If it’s too hot to switch on the broiler, skip that step and simply stem the kale and chop it into small pieces. Stir it into the penne just after draining to wilt it. Cooked kale without turning on the oven!

- This recipe also calls for a side of broiled tomato crostini. It’s a delicious component and I highly recommend it. If you want to include it in your potluck offering, cook the tomatoes ahead of time. When you arrive at the party, borrow the grill or a toaster oven to crisp the bread and then top it with the tomato mixture.

- The instructions for pesto included in this particular recipe are quite good. However, if you’re pressed for time, I fully encourage you to make life easy and sub in some store-bought pesto. In my book, it'll still count as a homemade dish.

Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first cookbook, called Food in Jars: Canning in Small Batches Year Round,  is now available.

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