Spaghetti with cavolo nero, garlic and chilli

Spaghetti with cavolo nero, garlic and chilli

I love cavolo nero’s rich iron flavour.  This, combined with caramelised garlic and crushed chilli flakes, makes for a great pasta sauce that takes literally minutes to make.  The recipe below is pretty versatile; if you don’t blitz the cooked cavolo and leave out the pasta, you’ve instead got yourself a great side veg; two recipes in one! 

When I was developing the recipe, I had some of the cavolo mixture left in the fridge so decided to sandwich it between two slices of sourdough bread and turn it into a pimped up toasted cheese sandwich.  Scrumptious!

Serves 2


  • 200g dried spaghetti
  • 100g cavolo nero, trimmed of all of its stalks and then roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • Generous pinch of chilli flakes
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • 40g Parmesan or hard Italian cheese, finely grated
  • Salt & black pepper

Cook the pasta in lots of boiling salted water according to the packet.  Meanwhile prepare the sauce.

Heat 3 tbsp extra virgin olive in a wide heavy based pan. Once hot, add the garlic and chilli flakes and cook on a medium heat for around 2-3 minutes until the garlic has turned golden.  Now add the cavolo and a pinch of salt and allow it to wilt down for 3 or 4 minutes, stirring regularly.  

Once the cavolo is extremely soft, transfer to a food processor along with 1 tbsp of pasta cooking water. Blitz until very finely chopped (you can always do this by hand, but it obviously takes much longer).

Once cooked, drain the pasta, reserving a small ladle of pasta cooking water.  Transfer the spaghetti back into the pan and add the puréed cavolo, lots of black pepper and ½ of the reserved pasta cooking water.  Give it a good mix to distribute everything and then add the cheese and lemon zest, stirring and tossing everything together until the cheese has melted into the hot pasta; add a little more of the pasta water if you feel it’s looking a little dry.  Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.

Serve in bowls topped with more grated cheese and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

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