We’re through the woods; spring has well and truly sprung. A cursory glance through the window to my left yields sunshine aplenty, the light blue of the sky etched temporarily onto my retina. Celebrating the best of the winter remnants and the lighter dishes brought by the oncoming spring, my recipe for Cavolo Nero with Pasta and Almonds makes an excellent addition to any early year repertoire.
For those of you who haven’t heard of cavolo nero – apparently many haven’t – it’s an Italian variety of loose leafed cabbage, known for its dark, rich colour. Closely related to kale, it’s rather a hardy vegetable, but shouldn’t be mistreated; overcooking is the cardinal sin.
Clearly, cavolo nero is a special ingredient. You can tell that just by looking at it. And what could be more appropriate to accompany such a rich and slightly sweet Tuscan brassica than an exquisite pasta; tufoli, with its curved ridges will do nicely.
But cavolo nero with pasta alone would never be quite right. What you need is some texture; something to punctuate the soft monotony of pasta and cabbage. What you need is a handful of almonds, toasted and scattered into the pot. The crunch is quite satisfying and the flavour combines beautifully.
Cavolo Nero with Pasta and Almonds
- 200g pasta, tufoli, rigatoni or similar
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic, mashed
- a large handful of cavolo nero, thickly sliced
- a pinch of salt
- 1 large red chilli. finely sliced
- 40g almonds, whole
- a twist of black pepper
- a few shavings of parmesan cheese
- Pop your pasta on to boil in generously salted water. Don’t overcook, it should retain a little bite.
- Meanwhile, take a large pan and gently fry the garlic in the olive oil. After 30 seconds add the sliced cavolo nero and pop the lid on.
- Cook the cavolo nero on a medium heat for 4-5 minutes until slightly wilted. In a separate pan toast the whole almonds until golden brown.
- Drain the pasta and allow to steam dry for 30 seconds. Return to the pot and stir through the cavolo nero, almonds, salt and chilli.
- Serve immediately with a twist of black pepper and few shavings of parmesan cheese.