Meatless Monday: Tuscan Penne with Kale and Chickpeas

Lately, I’ve been dreaming about the rolling hills of Tuscany, the art-soaked streets of Florence, the architecture and history of


Lately, I’ve been dreaming about the rolling hills of Tuscany, the art-soaked streets of Florence, the architecture and history of Rome, and most importantly’the pizza, pasta and gelato I’ll be eating on my upcoming trip to all these places. My flight to Italy is only a few weeks away and clearly, I’m excited.

That’s why my interview with celebrity chef and host of CBC’s In the Kitchen, Stefano Faita, couldn’t have come at a better time.  I talked to him about how to make Italian food healthy, the one food you must eat when you’re in Italy, and his favourite vegetarian recipe.

Me: Italian food is full of refined carbs (white pasta, bread) and heavy cheese and meat ‘ how do you make it healthier?

Stefano: For the pasta, go for a whole grain. What makes up your actual dish should be 1/3 pasta, 2/3 vegetables or protein. I live by a really great market and we eat a lot of vegetables. I always try to make vegetables the main part of the dish.

What’s your favourite dish?

Margherita pizza. I’m a pretty classic kind of guy. I love pasta Pomodoro’which is just a quick tomato sauce with some olive oil and garlic, sweet cherry tomatoes and garlic.

What’s the food everyone has to try when they’re in Italy?

The gelato! I just have it any time I’m in Italy.

What’s your favourite vegetarian dish?

A really good recipe that I like a lot is a kale sautéed with chickpeas on pasta.

Here’s the recipe developed by Stefano for Barilla:

Tuscan Penne with Kale and Chickpeas


2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium-size onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch red pepper flakes
500g Tuscan kale, cut into ribbons
14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 cup vegetable stock
15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup pitted black olives, chopped
454g (1 box) Penne or other short pasta
Salt and Pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté onion for 5 minutes until transparent. Add garlic and red pepper flakes.

Add kale, and cook 2 minutes, or until slightly wilted, tossing occasionally. Add remaining kale, tomatoes, broth and salt. Cover, and bring to a soft boil.

Reduce heat to medium, and simmer 10 minutes, or until soupy, tossing occasionally. Stir in beans and olives. Season with salt and Pepper

Cook pasta. Drain, and return to pot with kale mixture. Cook the mixture for 2 minutes over medium heat or until pasta absorbs most of liquid.

Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve.

-Katharine Watts, Associate Web Editor; Recipe by Stefano Faita for Barilla

Katharine isn’t just a web editor here at Best Health, she also blogs about healthy baking at Pastry Addict.