Allow this earthy, comforting dish to transport you to one of Tuscany’s most idyllic scenes: atop the region’s beautiful rolling hills, with a gorgeous view across the fields and towns of the region. And whilst this dish may only take you there vicariously, we can promise that, should you look out from a hilltop in Tuscany, you’ll have a good chance of seeing cavolo nero, or Tuscan kale, growing below. Literally ‘black kale’ in Italian, this special crop has been grown in Tuscany for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Once deemed a peasant crop, modern Tuscan cuisine has celebrated cavolo nero and made it widely sought after by gourmands across the world, who love its distinctive, earthy flavour and beautiful, deep green leaves.
We celebrate cavolo nero in our vegetarian pesto recipe, where we blend the leafy green with classic ingredients like garlic, pine nuts and aged hard cheese. Pair with your favourite pasta for a deliciously simple vegetarian take on Tuscan cuisine.
Which pasta to pair cavolo nero pesto with
Oil-based sauces like our cavolo nero pesto pair well with twist or shell pasta shapes such as fusilli, trofie or orecchiette, as the shallow grooves are perfect for catching the velvety sauce. Alternatively, longer shapes like spaghetti, linguine or tagliolini are strong choices as each strand will become coated in the oil-slicked pesto.
Our Tuscan cavolo nero pesto pasta recipe
Prep Time: 15 minutes (excluding pasta)
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Calories per serving: 749kcal (including pasta)
- 600g fresh pasta of your choosing (for fresh egg pasta dough, see our fresh pasta recipe)
- 600g cavolo nero, washed and roughly chopped
- 100g Italian hard cheese (vegetarian), plus more to serve
- 45g pine nuts
- 1-2 garlic cloves, halved
- 70ml extra virgin olive oil
- Prepare your pasta of choice, following our simple fresh pasta recipe.
- Prepare the cavolo nero by removing the central stem of each leaf, before washing under cold running water.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, before adding the cavolo nero leaves. Wilt the leaves, cooking for about 3 minutes. Drain the cavolo nero, before passing under cold running water to stop the cooking process and maintain the bright green color of the leaves.
- Place the cheese, pine nuts and garlic in a mixer. Blend together until a rustic texture is achieved. Remove the cavolo nero leaves from water and squeeze out any excess water. Add to the mixer and blend with 70ml of olive oil. If it turns out to be too thick, add a tablespoon of water and blend again. Add salt to taste.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt generously and cook your pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta and mix with cavolo nero pesto. Serve immediately, topping with more hard cheese if desired.