This vibrant Cavolo Nero Pasta is ready in under 15 minutes and it's a delicious way to use this seasonal green vegetable. A hearty, comforting and budget dinner, this pasta with cavolo nero is easy to adapt with your favourite pasta ingredients too. This is winter comfort food you didn't know you needed!
About this cavolo nero pasta recipe
If you haven't cooked with cavolo nero before, then you are missing out. Also known as Tuscan kale or black cabbage (which is the literal translation), cavolo nero is a dark green cabbage.
It has really thick green leaves, with a bit of a chewy texture - but still deliciously tender when cooked. The whole recipe is ready in as long as it takes to cook the pasta.
Unlike spinach, which we often add to pasta for a green veggie boost, cavolo nero doesn't wilt and it holds its shape adding lots of texture and bite to a pasta dish - not to mention colour and nutrients too.
It's a good source of vitamins A, C and K, while also being a good source of B vitamins. This is a really adaptable pasta dish too.
Ingredients and substitutions
- Cavolo nero - When choosing cavolo nero, look for crisp, unblemished leaves with no holes. Avoid cores that are split or dry. Because it has a much longer stem than kale, it is easier to de-stem and makes the prep of this cavolo nero pasta recipe nice and simple. You could use kale instead if that's all you have.
- Pasta - Any pasta works here, which is why it makes it even more budget friendly. No need to buy a special pasta, just use what you have. Pasta shapes or spaghetti are fine.
- Oil - Good quality extra virgin olive oil.
- Garlic - Make sure it is finely crushed so it is evenly distributed in the pasta.
- Lemon - Juice and zest adds a lovely fresh flavour to this.
- Olives - An easy way to add a lot of flavour (and some healthy fats) to a pasta dish. Use your favourite olives, anything works here. You can also use stuffed olives for extra flavour.
- Parmesan - Grate this yourself rather than using pre-grated, as it won't melt very well.
- Pine nuts - These add extra crunch.
A full ingredients list with measurements is in the recipe card below.
How to make cavolo nero pasta - Step by step
One: Add the spaghetti to a pan of boiling water and cook according to the packet instructions.
Two: Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pan over a low heat. Add the cavolo nero and cook for 4-5 minutes.
Three: Add the crushed garlic and cook for a further 1 minute.
Four: Drain the spaghetti and reserve 50ml/0.25cup of the pasta water. Add the spaghetti and water to the pan.
Five: Add the remaining oil, lemon juice and zest, olives, salt, pepper and Parmesan.
Six: Mix everything together until the cheese has melted. Serve topped with extra Parmesan and some pine nuts (optional).
This is a hearty and filling meal on its own, however if you wanted some sides or even some added protein then we have some great suggestions for you.
Crunch - We added pine nuts on top for some added crunch, but another seed like sunflower or pumpkin seeds would work, or even a nut like walnuts or flaked almonds.
Meat - One of our favourite ways to change this recipe up is by adding bacon. Bacon makes everything better, right? A little bit goes a long way, as it has such a strong flavour, so it's also good for keeping it on a budget.
Sauce - There isn't really a sauce to this cavolo nero pasta, just the olive oil, lemon and pasta water. However if you wanted a tomato based sauce, then why not try our Easy Tomato Pasta Sauce recipe? Or you could stir some Homemade Pesto through it.
Vegetables - Pretty much anything goes here, as long as they are quick cooking as this is a speedy pasta dish. You could add some spinach along with the cavolo nero or you could add some chopped roasted red peppers for a flavour boost. Cherry tomatoes and sun-dried tomatoes are a nice addition too, or any roasted vegetables.
Frequently Asked Questions
Because it's an easy way to make the sauce really silky smooth, with no extra effort.
If you have any leftovers, then they can be stored in an air tight container in the fridge for up to 2 days. You can reheat it in a pan with a little oil. We don't recommend freezing this.
You can use your favourite gluten free pasta and make sure there is no cross contamination from the other ingredients.
Yes, it is easy to make this a vegan dish. Just take out the Parmesan or swap it for a vegan alternative.
More vegetable pasta recipes
Cavolo Nero Pasta
- 140 g (5 oz) Whole wheat spaghetti
- 200 g (7.05 oz) Cavolo nero - destemmed and chopped
- 1 tablespoon Olive oil - extra virgin; to cook
- 2 tablespoon Olive oil - extra virgin; for the dressing
- 2 Garlic cloves - crushed
- 1 Lemon - juice and zest only
- 30 g (0.33 cups) Parmesan - grated
- 10 Olives - halved
- 1 pinch Sea salt
- 1 pinch Black pepper
- Pine nuts - optional
- Add 140 g Whole wheat spaghetti to a pan of boiling water and cook according to the packet instructions.
- Heat 1 tablespoon Olive oilin a large pan over a low heat. Add 200 g Cavolo nero and cook for 4-5 minutes.
- Add 2 Garlic cloves and cook for a further 1 minute.
- Drain the spaghetti and reserve 50ml/0.25cup of the pasta water. Add the spaghetti and water to the pan.
- Add 2 tablespoon Olive oil, juice and zest of 1 Lemon, 10 Olives, 1 pinch Sea salt, 1 pinch Black pepper and 30 g Parmesan.
- Mix everything together until the cheese has melted. Serve topped with extra Parmesan and some Pine nuts (optional).
- If you want this to be a vegetarian dish, then make sure you use a vegetarian Parmesan alternative. Most supermarket own Italian hard cheese is vegetarian.
- Depending on how you like your cabbage cooked, this may take a little longer to cook. We still like a little bit of bite to it, but if you want it really soft, then cook it for a bit longer.
- A splash of white wine added at the same time as the olive oil adds a lovely richness to this.
- If you like spicy food, then add a sprinkle of red chilli flakes before serving.
The nutritional information provided is approximate and is calculated using online tools. Information can vary depending on various factors, but we have endeavoured to be as accurate as possible.