Gone to Italia in My Mind

One thing I love about food is that it can transport you to far away locations and distant memories in just seconds either through sight, taste, or aroma.  Not many other things in life can do that so quickly and effectively in my experience.

I’ve been craving comfort food lately (thanks to frigid temperatures that haven’t gone away since Monday’s ice storm), and pasta is my go-to food when I feel this way.  Whenever I make pasta, my mind always drifts back to one of my favorite vacations of all time:  Italy in the summer of 2006.  My sister graduated from college and wanted to tour around Northern Italy as a way to celebrate.  It was an unforgettable family trip filled with delicious food and wine, and I still dream of owning a villa in Siena one day. 


Ever since that vacation, I claim that I would make a fabulous Italian.  I love Italian food.  I love Italian wine.  I love preparing food to be shared.  I am completely comfortable spending 2 hours in a restaurant eating with friends and family.  I would much rather walk everywhere than drive.  And Italians (at least in the Northern part) take off the month of August to travel to the beach for vacation.  Italians know how to live, friends. 

Can I get away with calling myself Italian?  Hardly.  Blonde hair and pale skin with freckles didn’t really scream “local” when roaming the streets of Tuscany.  Nonetheless, I think I’ve got the soul for the culture. 

 As a tribute to Italia, I thought of this dinner earlier in the week and made it for a couple friends.  It was a huge hit!   Not only is it warm and comforting,  but it also has the colors of the country’s flag.  Buon appetito!

White Bean and Kale Penne
Serves 4 to 6

12 to 15 leaves of kale

10 oz. whole wheat penne (a little more than 1/2 of a 16oz. box)

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 cup yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, diced

1 Tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes

2 Tbsp. capers

1 Tbsp. caper juice

1/2 cup dry white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc)

1 15oz. can of diced tomatoes (no-salt added variety), drained

1 15oz. can great northern beans, drained and rinse

1/2 of  15oz. can cannelini beans, drained and rinsed

Freshly grated Parmagiano-Reggiano cheese (optional)


1. Rinse kale and remove tough stems from leaves.  Pile 3 to 4 leaves on top of each other at a time, roll them together into a log, and slice into 1/2″ strips (this is called chiffonade).  Place shreds into a bowl and save for later.

2. In a pot, boil water and cook pasta according to package directions.

3. While pasta cooks, heat oil over medium in a large pan. Cook onions for 5 minutes until translucent.  Add garlic, red pepper flakes, capers, and caper juice.  Cook for another minute stirring constantly.

4. Add drained tomatoes, beans, and wine to mixture.  Allow wine to boil, and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes.

5. Smash some of the beans to thicken the sauce.  Add a little water if you wish (about 1/2 a cup).

6.  When pasta is done cooking, toss the kale into the hot water. It will cook quickly, and as soon as the color turns a vibrant, bright green, it’s done.

7.  Drain pasta and kale, and return to the pot.  Add sauce, and stir to coat.   

8.  Grate cheese on top of pasta before serving, and enjoy!

**Note — the capers and parmesan add plenty of salt to the dish, so you probably will not have to add any more to the sauce.  Taste first before you do!


Now I just need to find some gelato!


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