Cavolo nero and chickpea penne

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I have had an epiphany in the form of a 10-minute pasta wonder this week.  It contains the “darling of the cooking world.”  Black kale, or cavolo nero, is a dark green, leafy veg used in many Tuscan kitchens for centuries e.g. in the classic ribollita soup.

My parents know the way to my heart is fruit & veg – what can I say, I’m a simple gal – and this week, it was in the form of a large bunch of black kale.  Though the namesake of this blog may suggest I am a bit of a brassica expert, my cavolo nero knowledge is somewhat limited; this recipe is for anyone stumped on what to make when presented with a bunch of this stuff.  I have your back.

A quick research led me to a rather useful BBC Food section where this brassica is described and analysed in-depth, alongside the usual suggested recipes.  Coincidentally, I was flicking through Yotam Ottolenghi’s latest masterpiece, NOPI, in Waterstones that afternoon only to land on a fried kale recipe.  I adopted concepts used in both outlets to make a meal so good you never even knew you wanted until you’ve tried it.

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Black kale // cavolo nero.
Inspired by both the Beebs and Ottolenghi, I bring you this 10-minute cavolo nero wonder dish.  It’s simple, satisfying and mouth-watering.   Perfect for a late night TV dinner, or a quick, throw-together option when hosting friends.

Cavolo nero and chickpea penne

Serves 2

Ingredients.

2 cups dried penne

5 cavolo nero leaves

2 garlic cloves, crushed

juice of 1 lemon

zest of 1/2 a lemon

1 can of chickpeas

1/2 – 1 tsp dried chilli flakes, depending on taste

1 tsp olive oil

2 – 3 tbsp nutritional yeast

Method.

  1.  Cook the pasta according to packet instructions.
  2. Blanch the cavolo nero for 1 minute.  Let it cool, and chop once it is easier to handle.
  3. In a pan, heat the olive oil.  Fry the garlic and lemon zest until the garlic starts to brown.
  4. Add the chilli flakes and fry for a further minute.
  5. Add the chopped cavolo nero to the pan and fry until the leaves start to crisp up.
  6. Once crisped, squeeze over the juice of 1 lemon, stir, and take off the heat.
  7. Once the pasta is cooked, save 1 tbsp of the cooking water and drain.  Add the chickpeas to the same pan and stir – so the chickpeas warm a little.
  8. Warm the cavolo nero mix up under medium heat and mix in the pasta water and the pasta/chickpeas.
  9. Once warmed all the way through, add the nutritional yeast.  Mix well.
  10. Season – plenty of pepper necessary – and serve!  Sprinkle some more nutritional yeast on top, if so desired.

Having been introduced to a Jamie Oliver broccoli and anchovy pasta perfection a few years back, I became inspired; everyone I have ever cooked for loved it.  It was beautifully simple and powerful that everybody and their aunt were asking for the recipe. The cavolo nero pasta above has similar vibes – so I am glad I am (kind of) getting some anchovy pasta action back in my life.

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If you’re a fan of the beans and greens combination as used above, Rachel Roddy has recently shared a recipe for a humble white bean stew Roman-style.  Cucina povera dishes are totally up my street!

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