Thursday, 9 January 2014

Pasta with Cavolo Nero

This recipe was originally inspired by one in the River Café Green book, but over the years I've adapted it and changed it so much that it bears little resemblance to the original dish. We love it, and make it every time there is some Cavolo Nero (black kale, but that doesn't sound as romantic) in the garden.

It's usually a meat free meal for us, but I brought a pack of deliciously smoky lardons back from my recent trip to France so I added those, which, I'm afraid to say, ups the already high calorie count to around 5 million calories a portion. This is NOT a dish to try right now if you've just launched a New Year diet - in fact it's a way to make a saintly vegetable gloriously sinful. Ideal for a push-the-boat-out night. You do need to start an hour or more in advance, to infuse the cream with all the garlicky goodness.

The amount I made serves two, generously, but all quantities are approximate...... use however much you happen to have.

200g pasta - I like to use Penne as the sauce oozes into the holes
200g Cavolo Nero
100g lardons, bacon scraps or diced pancetta (optional)
a 284ml carton double cream - or you could save a few calories by using half fat Elmlea as I do. I find it less likely to split when cooking, too
50g finely grated Parmesan cheese
8 cloves of garlic
¼ teaspoon of dried chilli flakes

Start by preparing the cream - tip it into a small pan. Peel and lightly bruise the garlic and add to the pan. Bring slowly to the boil and remove from heat, then leave to stand for at least an hour. Just before adding it to the dish, fish out the garlic cloves (don't worry about the skin, that will break up as you stir it into the dish). If you want it REALLY garlicky, leave the garlic cloves in the cream and give it a whizz with a stick blender, but go gently, you don't want whipped cream!

Next prepare the Cavolo Nero by removing the hard white central leaf vein then cutting the leaves across into strips about 1cm wide. I've been making this dish for years, and always laboriously cut out the veins with a knife - time consuming but, I thought, worth it. This week Mark came into the kitchen while I was doing it, picked up a leaf, made a tiny tear each side of the vein at the root end then, holding the end of the vein in one hand, ran two fingers of the other down either side of the vein.  Result - a cleanly stripped leaf in seconds! Just think of  all the hours I must have wasted by not knowing that trick!

Now cook the pasta according to the pack instructions, adding the Cavolo Nero to the water for the last 30 seconds (this timing is for young, tender leaves straight from the garden. Allow a minute or more for coarser shop-bought leaves)

While it is cooking, fry the lardons in their own fat until cooked and crispy, then pour in the cream and add the chilli flakes and heat gently.

Drain the pasta and Cavolo Nero then return them to the pan and tip in the bacon and cream mixture and the grated Parmesan and mix well.

I'm joining in the Pasta Please challenge at The Spicy Pear and Tinned Tomatoes (with apologies to Jacqui for the lardons!)  


Lou, Eat Your Veg said...

Lovely to find your blog! Just seen you on Pasta Please and your dish sung out to me, love Cavolo Nero, one of my fave veggies. And love pasta sauces like this, naughty but a lovely treat on a dark miserable night!

Mark Willis said...

I'm so happy to have been able to show you a "cookery" tip, considering all the thousands you have shown me over the years! :)

Jacqueline Meldrum said...

Thanks for entering Jane. No bacon for me, but I'd love it without!

Alison said...

Yum, looks very decadent

Unknown said...

Loving this pasta dish with cavalo nero and lardons. Would love to try making this at home. Thank you for entering this month's Pasta Please Challenge.