Kale and Riced Potatoes Gratin


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By Elisabetta Ciardullo

What can you make for a weeknight dinner, or as a side dish, that is earthy, healthy, nourishing, not expensive, and satisfying? You guessed it, Kale and Riced Potatoes Gratin!

This dish seems more complicated to prepare than it really is. It is a crowd pleaser, as most people love potatoes in all their forms. It hides the kale well, that even if it is one of the most amazing greens we can get, is often not so appreciated. It is rich, with the added cheese and eggs, but not overpowering or heavy. The acidity of the tomato sauce marries well with the sweetness of the potatoes.

Potatoes do not have such a good reputation among diet followers because of their carbohydrate content. One medium Russet potato has approximately 37 grams of carbs, which is not that much considering that it also provides you with fiber (4 grams – but that includes the skin) and vitamins C and B6 (37% and 27% RDI, respectively).

In my view, the satisfaction and fulfilling feeling that you get from a potato whatever way it is cooked is definitely worth the carbs, unless you have a specific health problem of course. Better eating a nice, balanced meal and nothing else afterwards than keeping going back to the refrigerator looking for a snack!

I always found this dish excellent for kids as well, as most of the time their love for tomato sauce, a vague reminder of a pizza taste, makes them eat a good quantity of green vegetables!

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Ingredients:2 large russet potatoes
2 eggs
3-4 cups green leaves (prewashed baby kale, or spinach, or black kale, or collard greens..)
1 carrot
1-2 cups simple marinara sauce (tomato puree, basil, garlic, olive oil)
½ cup milk
¾ of a cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
½ cup parmigiano cheese, grated
Sage and basil leaves
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Grated nutmeg, crushed red pepper, dry oregano as desired

Preparation:1. Put the rinsed potatoes, skin on, to boil in cold water. The water has to cover completely the potatoes. Lower the flame when the water starts boiling, and let simmer for approximately 45 to 60 minutes, until a fork can be inserted easily.

2. Make the marinara sauce: just put all the ingredients in a nonstick pot, add some oil, stir and let simmer covered for 10-15 minutes, stirring often.

3. Blanche the kale: in the meantime, put a few cups of salted water to boil in a different pot. When it starts boiling, add the leaves; let simmer for 5-10 minutes, depending on the leaves (black kale will take longer than baby kale for example). Drain and set aside.

4. Grate the carrot.

5. Cover the bottom of a non-stick pan with EV Olive Oil; when hot add the garlic, the sage, the carrot, and finally the kale. Let simmer gently for 5-10 minutes, stirring from time to time. Add Crushed hot pepper if desired, adjust salt and pepper.

6. Now rice the potatoes with the potato ricer in a bowl. Potatoes can be mashed but the result will not be the same. Then add the eggs, slightly beaten, the milk, Mozzarella and Parmigiano, keeping a couple of tablespoons of the last two to add at the end on top of the gratin.

7. Chop the kale-carrot mixture, add it to the potato mixture. Stir well, adjust salt and pepper. Add grated nutmeg.

8. Oil an oven proof recipient, sprinkle the breadcrumbs, shake away excess.

9. Gently put the potato-kale mixture in the oven dish. Level with a fork. Pour the tomato sauce on top.

10. Cook at 370F for 20-25 minutes.

11. Remove from the oven, add the leftover mozzarella and parmigiano, and return to the oven again 5-8 minutes or until when the cheese on top is melted.

12. Serve immediately while hot.

A Few Notes:

  • Gratins are always very versatile, as they can be prepared in advance for when you invite friends over: just skip the last step (cooking in the oven) until the last moment. This one specifically can be dressed up for a more sophisticated dinner: for example, you could make two layers, and stuff the middle with extra tomato sauce and sliced mozzarella.
  • I used baby Kale leaves as it is the easiest one to find, and I wanted to encourage everyone to try. My personal choice goes to black Kale, also known as Laciniato Kale.
  • Please do not buy a ready-made marinara sauce: it is so easy to make, and often the industrial sauce will contain ingredients that you don’t really need. Just buy a good quality “passata” (=strained tomatoes) and keep it in your pantry.
  • Potato ricer: it is a small investment, but the results are worth it. Riced potatoes are super fluffy and versatile. If you don’t have one, hand mash your potatoes, but resist the temptation to put them in the food processor as they will release all the starch and become watery and gluey, and the result will be poor.
  • You can also steam the potatoes or bake them. In this case you will lose some potato flesh as it is slightly more difficult to peel them.

Elisabetta Ciardullo is the founder of Think Italian! Events. As Personal Chef she is an ambassador of the Italian cuisine and culture, bringing it into the private homes of Americans, as well as to many corporate clients in Los Angeles.