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Vegan delights

If the past few weeks off work have taught me anything, it’s that I’m ready to retire.

That can’t happen for a number of reasons, so instead I bring you this week’s recipe for spaghetti with cavolo nero ‘pesto’.

This is a great vegan pasta dish that’s delicious and packed full of goodness.

This week’s album
Illmatic by Nas

This is up there as one of the best, and certainly most influential, hip-hop albums ever made. Nas’ debut album explores his life in 90s New York through incredible lyricism, production, and often unrivalled flow. The album cover features Nas when he was seven - the age at which he says he ‘started seeing the future’.

Doing Veganuary? Head this way…

This week’s key ingredient is cavolo nero, which literally means ‘black cabbage’. It got its name due to the very dark colour the leaves take on when cooked.

It’s a loose-leafed cabbage first grown in 600BC in Tuscany - it’s also referred to as Tuscan kale - and has a wonderful bittersweet taste. I love it during these winter months and it’s the perfect accompaniment to most dishes.

Cavolo nero has many great health benefits as it’s packed with vitamins, fibre, and calcium. Plus it’s easy to prep (you cook it the same way you’d do kale).

In this recipe we’re going to use it to make a pesto-type sauce for a pasta dish. The earthy / mineral flavour of the cavolo nero, combined with almonds and pine nuts, makes a punchy sauce that’s seriously tasty.

Typical of a lot of Tuscan dishes, this recipe really benefits from using the best-quality olive oil you can get your hands on.

Cavolo nero is super popular in Italian cooking during autumn and winter.

What you need

The below serves 4. It takes 5 mins to prep, then 20 mins to cook.

400g dried spaghetti
200g cavolo nero
(washed & large stalks removed)
1 garlic clove
½ tsp dried chilli flakes (optional)
40g ground almonds
40g pine nuts
¼ lemon
(juice only)
4 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil
8 pieces sun-dried tomatoes
Sea salt & black pepper

Ready, steady, cook

1. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.

2. Once boiling, add the cavolo nero and cook for 8-10 mins (until it's very soft / even overcooked). Carefully remove from the water using tongs (some water is needed for the sauce so don't worry about draining it too much) and transfer to a container suitable for use with a handheld/stick blender.

3. Add the spaghetti to the boiling water and set a timer for one min less than the packet instructions for ‘al dente’.

4. Add the garlic, chilli (if using), olive oil, lemon juice, almonds, and pine nuts to the cavolo nero. Blend until completely smooth, adding some of the cooking water if needed. We’re aiming for a smooth sauce consistency.

Add a generous amount of freshly ground pepper and a pinch of sea salt. Check the seasoning to see whether any more salt or lemon juice is required.

5. Transfer the ‘pesto’ to a pan on a low heat ready for the pasta. When the timer goes off, use tongs to transfer the pasta to the pesto and stir through until completely coated. Use a little pasta cooking water to loosen the pesto if needed and, finally, drizzle over a little extra-virgin olive oil while vigorously tossing the pan to emulsify it into the sauce.

6. Divide between two plates. Scatter over the sun-dried tomatoes. Feast immediately.

Final thought

Not doing Veganuary? For added depth of flavour, add two anchovy fillets when making the ‘pesto’, or finish the dish with lashings of grated parmesan.

Same time next week,


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