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Black Cabbage

Cavolo nero or black cabbage, is a leafy cabbage that doesn’t form heads but rather resembles palm fronds, with deep greenish black leaves that can be up to a yard long. It has pronounced ribs whose surfaces have a distinctive bubbly appearance. Substitute regular kale or Swiss chard if unavailable.

There are innumerable uses for this vegetable, the most common of which is ribollita (literally, “reboiled soup”). Most versions include cavolo nero, Tuscan salt-free bread and cannellini beans, as well as carrots, beets and onions.

Here, it’s featured in a simple pasta dish accompanied by shrimp, tomatoes and garlic. Try to have your ingredients at the ready. The sauce can be prepared in the time it takes the pasta to cook.

Pasta with shrimp, garlic and cavolo nero

Click here to view a large-size version of this picture.

1/2 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 plum tomato, chopped
1 bunch cavolo nero, cut into a chiffonade
unsalted butter
kosher salt
freshly milled black pepper
chopped parsley
fried breadcrumbs (optional; see recipe below)
extra-virgin olive oil

Place shrimp in a small bowl. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the shrimp and set aside for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the pasta according to package directions. Heat 1 tablespoon unsalted butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until the cloves take on a little color, about 1 minute. Add shrimp. Cook shrimp until they turn a pale orange, stirring occasionally.

Add tomatoes and raise heat slightly. Sauté until they begin to break down, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add black cabbage to the pan. Cook until the leaves wilt, stirring frequently, about 5 additional minutes. Taste for salt and pepper.

Drain pasta, reserving a ladleful of pasta cooking water. Add pasta directly to the skillet and toss. If shrimp mixture seems too dry, add some pasta cooking water to the skillet. Stir in chopped parsley and fried breadcrumbs. Drizzle a little extra-virgin olive oil, then serve at once.

Time: 30 minutes, including prep. Breadcrumbs can be made in advance.

Fried breadcrumbs

6 tablespoons regular olive oil
breadcrumbs torn from a stale loaf of bread, about 1 cup
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
kosher salt
freshly milled black pepper
chopped fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, chives or sage will do)

Heat olive oil over medium-low heat in a large skillet. Add onion and sauté until they turn golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add breadcrumbs. Fry until breadcrumbs become toasted, stirring frequently so as to prevent the crumbs from burning. This should take about up to 5 minutes depending on how hot your stove becomes. Let cool slightly. Taste for salt and pepper. Stir in chopped fresh herbs of your choice.

This will be my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging #241 hosted by Cinzia from Cindystar. Weekend Herb Blogging was originally begun by Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen.

4 replies »

  1. How funny, a foreigner teaching an Italian how to makea lovely pasta!!!
    never thought to use Cavolo Nero for it, always enjoyed to accompany meat or in Ribillita!
    Thanks for participating, hope to see you again at WHB!


    • Thanks Cindy.

      It’s known as Tuscan kale over here in NYC, and routinely appears in the summer. I understand it’s usually available in Italy during the winter (or soon after the first frost).

      I hope to be a WHB regular.

      Take care and thanks for the welcome. 🙂


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