Winter is starting to tiptoe off into spring. The air is noticeably warmer and the mornings brighter. Our food box is still brimful of winter favourite though, including a gorgeous couple of bunches of cavolo nero.
An enchanting member of the brassica family, cavolo nero hails from Tuscany. The long dark, almost black, leaves are rippled and crinkled and furl quite prettily inwards. If you bury your face in the leaves the scent is pleasingly earthy and cabbage-y.
Cavolo nero doesn’t have quite the springy texture of it’s cousin kale. The softer mouth feel makes it more suitable for dishes where you aren’t seeking a bouncy crunch but where say, English spinach, would be too slippery. The flavour is unique – pleasantly tangy with a hint of bitterness and quite a sweet after taste.
I love this recipe that pairs the flavour and texture of cavolo nero with the smoothness of orecchiette and the salty lemon burst of preserved lemons. It’s also incredibly quick and simple to make – perfect for a late winter’s evening.
Orecchiette are lovely little pastas, shaped (sort of) like the ‘ear’ they are named for. They do have a passing resemblance to the curve of a freshly scrubbed and creamy-pink child’s earlobe. They are quite thick so take about 10-12 minutes to reach al-dente. Like all pasta, make sure they have plenty of room to swim around in the pot.
Orecchiette with cavolo nero
Preparation time: 18 minutes
Vegan, quick, easy
240 grams dry orecchiette pasta
2 – 3 bunches cavalo nero kale
2 cloves garlic
2 quarters preserved lemon
salt and extra virgin olive oil
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil then add the pasta. Turn down to a low boil/strong simmer.
Rinse and slice the cavolo nero into ribbons (across the rib). Finely chop the garlic and roughly slice the preserved lemon.
The pasta should be al-dente in about 10-12 minutes. Take a bite to see if it’s cooked to your liking.
When the pasta is almost done heat a pan and a good glug or two of olive oil. Drain the pasta (reserving a cup) and toss all ingredients into the pan. Cover to help the cavolo nero steam, for 60-90 seconds.
Then remove the lid and stir to properly combine the ingredients. If the pasta looks a little dry add some of the reserved water or olive oil until everything is pleasingly glossy.
Serve with a drizzle of oil and some cracked black pepper.
Hope you enjoy! Let me know how you go in the comments section or tag me on instagram at #melissamieow – I’d love to see your creation xx