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Kale, Fennel, and Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce Recipe

Rustic Kale, Fennel, and Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce

We're thrilled to bring you kitchen wisdom from our friends at America's Test Kitchen. This week, they're sharing a tried-and-true slow cooker recipe for a kale, fennel, and sun-dried tomato sauce that pairs well with pasta.

Pasta and braised kale is a popular pairing for a reason—the earthy, meaty notes of the tender greens add depth and flavor to the mild-tasting pasta for a simple yet incredibly satisfying dish. To prepare our kale for the slow cooker, we sliced it into thin strips, then tossed it in with chopped onion, minced garlic, and red pepper flakes. This combination tasted good, but swapping the onion for fennel promised a more filling and more flavorful dish. We used chicken broth, rather than water, for the cooking liquid; it imparted salty, savory notes to our sauce. To add some much-needed brightness, we included chopped sun-dried tomatoes. A big drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, plus some grated Parmesan, enriched this fairly lean sauce, and toasted pine nuts offered a welcome crunch. So their flavors wouldn't become dulled in the slow cooker, we added them just before serving.

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Slow-Cooker Rustic Kale, Fennel, and Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce

Slow-Cooker Rustic Kale, Fennel, and Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce


Be sure to use high-quality extra-virgin olive oil here; the test kitchen’s favorite brand is Columela. Pine nuts need to be stored with care to prevent rancidity. They are best transferred to an airtight container as soon as their original packaging is opened. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to three months or in the freezer for up to nine months.

Kale, Fennel, and Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce Recipe


  1. 1 pound kale, stemmed and sliced into 1-inch-wide strips
  2. 2 fennel bulbs, cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  3. 2 cups chicken broth
  4. 1 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed, patted dry, and chopped coarse
  5. 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  6. 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  7. Salt and pepper
  8. 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  9. 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  10. 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted


  1. Combine kale, fennel, broth, tomatoes, garlic, pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in slow cooker. Cover and cook until kale is tender, 5 to 6 hours on low or 3 to 4 hours on high.
  2. Before serving, stir in parmesan, oil, and pine nuts and season with salt and pepper to taste.
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