Orecchiette with Caramelized Turnips, Tuscan Kale, and Cracked Pepper from 'The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook'

Orecchiette with Caramelized Turnips, Tuscan Kale, and Cracked Pepper
Oliver Parini

The first person I knew who ate kale on a regular basis was a Vermonter. This was back in 2005, long before kale was a required ingredient on hop restaurant menus. I tried the green for the first time that year, sautéd briefly with garlic, and frankly wasn't impressed. It took another few years and a little more time at the stove before I turned, like much of the country, into a kale addict. I eat it with pasta all of the time, but rarely add variations to my garlic-chiles-greens recipe.

This pasta dish from Tracey Medeiros's Vermont Farm Table Cookbook introduced a new element to my standard mix: caramelized turnips. At first, I was turned off by the idea of pairing bitter greens with a bitter root vegetable, but then I remembered how turnips mellow and sweeten once cooked. Add in some serious Maillard action to the turnips, and I realized this was a really clever way to make use of a New England staple crop.

Why I picked this recipe: Pasta plus kale is a staple recipe in my house, but I'd never thought to add sautéed turnips to the mix. Plus, orecchiette is seriously the best pasta shape out there.

What worked: The turnips mellowed nicely once browned and mixed with plenty of fat. I especially liked how they slipped into the pockets of the pasta for hidden bursts of vegetal sweetness.

What didn't: As written, this dish is super-rich. (With 1/4 cup oil, 1 stick of butter, and almost a cup of cheese, how could it not be?) It's not exactly weeknight food. You can cut back on the oil and butter by half if you'd like for a meal that is still satisfying without being a gut-buster.

Suggested tweaks: As you can tell from the picture, this pasta recipe will also work with broccoli rabe in place of the kale. You could also add some Italian sausage or pancetta if you want to incorporate meat.

Reprinted with permission from The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook by Tracey Medeiros. Copyright 2013. Published by The Countryman Press. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.

Recipe Facts

Active: 30 mins
Total: 30 mins
Serves: 4 servings

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  • Salt
  • 1 pound orecchiette
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 medium turnips, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 pound Tuscan kale, stems and center ribs removed, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus extra for garnish


  1. Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving 3/4 cup of the pasta water. Set aside.

  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the turnips and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, stirring often, until the turnips are tender and golden, about 6 minutes.

  3. Add the kale and cook, stirring often, until the kale is very tender, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring often, 1 minute. Add the reserved pasta water as needed and season with cracked pepper to taste. Add the butter and stir gently until melted.

  4. Add the pasta to the kale mixture and toss with tongs until the pasta is well coated. Stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Season with salt and additional cracked pepper to taste.

  5. Divide the pasta into warm bowls, sprinkle with additional cheese, if desired, and serve.