Chilli linguini with cavolo nero

The secret to this rustic dish lies in the heat of garlic and chilli, and the saltiness of anchovies. If you do not like anchovies do not blanch in horror – they melt away during cooking and underpin the dish with a subtle saltiness and depth, but not fishiness. The cavolo nero is sauteed in this trinity of flavour packed ingredients and some good olive oil, and then tossed through chilli linguini and seasoned with parmesan  and lemon zest. Delizioso!

Cavolo nero, or Tuscan kale, is an Italian variety of kale, originally from Tuscany. Its glossy very dark green leaves have a robust texture and the flavour is somewhat like spinach but with a delicious nuttiness and slight sweetness. There are recipes using it dating from the 17th century, and it thrives in the garden without much need for care and attention. It is incredibly versatile, and can be eaten fresh, steamed, sauteed, or in a stir fry. We grew it over winter in our vegetable garden, and it is still providing us more than we can use, halfway through spring.


Serves 4

500 g cavolo nero
1/3 cup good olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
2 long red chillis, sliced finely
4 anchovy fillets, chopped
500 g linguini (I use a chilli infused variety, but whatever is your favourite should work)
40 g parmesan, grated
zest of 1 lemon
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Trim the stalks from the cavolo nero and slice finely. In a large frying pan heat the olive oil and saute the garlic, chilli and anchovy fillets over medium heat, taking care not to burn the garlic for a couple of minutes.  Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the cavolo nero to the frying pan and saute until tender. Meanwhile, when the water comes to the boil, cook the pasta until al dente (about 8 – 10 minutes). When the pasta is cooked, drain well, keeping aside about 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water. Toss the pasta through the kale mixture, adding some of the pasta water to bring it all together, glossy and delicious. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper. Sprinkle with the grated parmesan and lemon zest and serve right away. A red wine with some body to it goes beautifully with this dish, with Nina Simone as the soundtrack.

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Image credit: Cavolo nero Pauline Mak