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Tomato Sauce with Collards and Onions

This is one of my go-to recipes all winter. The collards add body to the sauce and the sauce hides the collards from picky eaters who won't eat their greens. To cut the strong taste of the collards,boil them first in the pot you will use to make the pasta. You can skip the pre-boiling step if you use kale or swiss chard instead ... then this recipe takes less time that it takes to boil the pasta. Serve it on high-protein pasta with a little grated cheddar cheese and some carrot sticks for a complete meal.

Active time with collards: 20 minutes. Total time: 30 minutes. Makes 6 servings, 3/4 cups each.homemade tomato sauce with collards and onions


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried, powdered cayenne or chipotle pepper (optional)
1 cup chopped collards
1 can crushed tomatoes (28 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon dried, powdered oregano (optional)


  1. In a large skillet or medium pot, heat the oil over medium heat. In a medium pan, bring six to eight cups of water to boil.
  2. Peel and chop the onion and put it in the pot, stirring frequently to keep from burning. Turn heat down to medium low if the onion starts to burn.
  3. Peel and mince the garlic and set aside.

    chop collard stems to add to tomato sauce for more nutrition and flavor

  4. In a big bowl of water, rinse the collard leaves thoroughly. You may need to rinse them two or three times, changing the water when it gets dirty. Stack the leaves up on your cutting board so the stems line up, then make a V-shaped cut to remove the stems from the leaves. (You may need to make two or three stacks.) Cut off the bottom edge of the stems and chop the rest into pieces about 1/4 inch long. Add the chopped stems to the pot of boiling water as you get them ready. Cut the leaves into thin ribbons, about 1/4 inch wide. Add the leaves to the boiling water about two minutes after you added the stems. Boil for 5 minutes and drain.
  5. Add the garlic to the onion mixture. If you are using it, also add the cayenne or chipotle pepper. Stir once.Add the collards and the tomatoes. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat to low. Cover pan and let simmer for about 10 minutes, until the collards tender. Cool a spoon of sauce and taste it, then adjust seasonings as desired.
  6. To serve, add sauce to the pot with drained hot pasta in it. Let the sauce get to know the pasta for about a minute, then serve.

Tips and notes

  • Boil your pasta in very little water to save energy and get a great broth at the same time. I'm delighted by Harold McGee's method of cooking pasta in just enough water to cover it. Now, I use six cups of water to boil four servings of pasta and save the water to make soup or rice.
  • Use kale or swiss chard instead of collards for a sauce that cooks a bit faster. The swiss chard will also be a bit sweeter.
  • Make two or more batches at a time. This keeps well in the refrigerator. If you cook two meals worth of pasta at a time, go ahead and sauce the extra pasta right away.
  • In the winter, I sometimes buy cans of crushed tomatoes with basil for the same price as plain crushed tomatoes. It's a good way to get basil into this sauce when it's out of season.

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