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Salt and Stone: Sun-dried Tomato and Kale Rigatoni

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I’ve written and rewritten this column in my head all week long. And if I’m being completely honest, I’ve spent most of the week avoiding my computer, as I hoped the perfect combination of words would come to me.

But that didn’t magically happen, as I knew it wouldn’t. So, as the snow pours down and my kids wrestle, argue and bombard me with school-related questions in my peripheral, I tap away searching for what I want to say.

Without sounding completely cheesy, I think the saying I’m looking for is something like “all good things come to an end” or “there’s a season for everything.” This will be my last Salt and Stone column for the Yakima Herald-Republic for the time being.

I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed sharing a little bit of my life and the food I cook here with you. Yakima, with its bounty of local produce, neon pink desert sunsets and the majestic Mount Adams peeking from behind the hills, has been the inspiration behind every recipe I cook. Cobbling together a few words about life in our Valley, cooking with ingredients grown right here and sharing it with family and friends, who feel like family, has been and continues to be a dream come true.

My hope is that over the last couple of years, you’ve found a recipe or two to share with the people you love. This column was always meant to be an approachable opportunity to have a little fun in the kitchen. So, in true Salt and Stone form, I knew I had to share one last veggie-laden pasta dish. What could be more Yakima-centric than a cheesy decadent pasta full of veggies and cooked in wine?

My weekly McIlrath produce box had a gorgeous bunch of kale and broccolini included and I knew immediately what I wanted to do. Now, the broccolini is completely optional. For this recipe, if you can’t find it at the grocery store, sub in a head of broccoli or skip it altogether. You can’t go wrong either way.

Tangy sun-dried tomatoes, a bit of white wine, and creamy mozzarella cheese come together for a bright, flavorful, delicious dinner that comes together in less than 30 minutes. If you have a meat lover in your house who needs a little protein, add some shredded rotisserie chicken or a chicken sausage to the dish to bulk it up. These are my favorite kinds of recipes because you can adjust and swap a million and one ways to make it just right for you. The garlic, red pepper flakes, white wine and lemon will make just about any ingredient sing.

You’ll still find me cooking and writing in Yakima Magazine and over at www.thesaltandstone.com. Come visit me there.

• Andrea McCoy writes the column Kitchen Captivated for Yakima Magazine and at The Salt and Stone, a home cooking blog. The Salt and Stone is a nod not just to the essence of cooking, but also to the Yakima Valley. Read more at www.thesaltandstone.com.

Sun-dried Tomato and Kale Rigatoni

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 bunch broccolini

1 small bunch green or lacinato kale

1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes

4 cloves garlic, minced

Zest and juice of a lemon

1/2 cup white wine

4 ounces whole milk mozzarella cheese

10 ounces rigatoni pasta (spaghetti noodles are a great option, too)

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Black pepper to taste

Start by setting a large pot of heavily salted water to boil. Cook the pasta to package instructions, taking care to drain the noodles when they are al dente and reserving half a cup of pasta water.

Wash the kale and broccolini with cold water. Pat dry with paper towels and chop into bite-size pieces, pulling the woody stems from the kale.

In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil, red pepper flakes and a pinch of black pepper over medium low heat. Add the broccolini and kale to the pan, stirring constantly until the kale turns bright green and the vegetables are well-coated with oil, about three or four minutes.

Add the minced garlic to the pan and stir for an additional 30 seconds. Turn the heat to low and add the lemon zest, sun-dried tomatoes, white wine and a generous pinch of kosher salt to the pan. Continue to stir until the wine is absorbed, about five minutes. (If you prefer not to cook with wine, add a splash of chicken stock instead.)

Add the pasta to the pan along with 1/4 cup pasta water. Stir well to combine the pasta with the kale mixture. Turn the heat off to the pan and squeeze the lemon over the pasta. Add the mozzarella cheese and gently stir to combine. Just before serving, sprinkle the pasta with a small pinch of kosher salt, black pepper and a dash of red pepper flakes.

Serve immediately. Serves four.

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