Cavolo nero is a cousin of kale and both belong to the brassica family. Its long leaves are so dark green in colour, they’re nearly black or “nero”. It originates from Tuscany where it was first believed to be grown in 600BC.
I can’t say when it first started to appear in our greengroceries and supermarkets but it doesn’t seem like long ago. Since I first discovered it, relatively recently, I’ve used it mainly in minestrone and in pasta dishes. It has a deliciously rich and intense flavour.
Not surprisingly, cavolo nero works well in pasta dishes and this recipe by Stevie Parle, which appeared in the Telegraph a couple of years ago, is delicious.
- 500g penne
- 300g cavolo nero (you can strip the leaves from the stem if you like but since it’s going to be puréed I don’t think it’s necessary. I just chopped mine up.)
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 3 tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted
- 150ml extra virgin olive oil
- Grated parmesan to taste
- Bring some salted water to the boil with the garlic cloves in a large saucepan and add the cavolo nero. Cook for 5-10 minutes until tender and drain, keeping the garlic cloves
- Transfer this and the pine nuts to a food processor and blitz. Add the olive oil and parmesan (maybe a couple of handfuls), process again and season. You will have a dark green sauce
- Meanwhile bring another pan of water to the boil and cook the penne according to packet instructions
- Drain the pasta, reserving a ladleful of the cooking water, return it to the pan and toss with the sauce, loosening it with some of the cooking water
- Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and serve with more grated parmesan