Although I think of cabbage as a fall and winter vegetable, the early crop is now in farmstands in my area, and it is sweet and delicate (no unpleasant odor while cooking these). Savoy cabbage is more delicate than green cabbage and I always prefer it when I can get it. The leaves are crinkled and veined and much thinner and less sturdy than standard green cabbage. When I see a perfect specimen, I can’t resist.
I prefer to blanch my savoy cabbage before sauteing it. I’ve seen recipes that call for sauteing it raw and I’ve tried it, but it ends up cooking a little unevenly–too crunchy in spots, while brown and caramelized in other spots. I like the leaves to maintain their gorgeous green color and be crisp-tender. A few minutes in boiling salted water is all that is required.
When making savoy cabbage as part of a pasta dish, you can simply boil the cabbage first, then drain while you boil the pasta in the same pot of water.
Tonight we’re dining vegetarian, with pasta as the main course. For protein, I’ve made a salad of chopped arugula, mozzarella and cherry tomatoes from my neighbor Beppi’s garden. Simply tossed with olive oil and salt, this caprese is a great first course or side dish.
Pasta with Savoy Cabbage
1 head savoy cabbage
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 lb gemelli or other short pasta
4 tbls olive oil
1 hot chili pepper or pinch of chili flakes (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
pecorino cheese for sprinkling at the table
Quarter the cabbage lengthwise and remove the core from each quarter.
Slice each quarter widthwise into 1/2″ ribbons.
In a large pot of boiling salted water, blanch cabbage for 3 -4 minutes, until crisp-tender. Remove and drain.
While pasta is cooking (in the same water in which the cabbage was boiled), brown the garlic and chili pepper in a broad skillet on high heat for 2 – 3 minutes or until garlic begins to turn golden.
Add in cabbage and continue sauteing on low heat until pasta is a minute shy of done.
Add pasta and 1/2 cup cooking liquid and saute with cabbage for about a minute.
If you’re serving the dish with the hot pepper included, remove seeds and slice. Otherwise, if pepper is too hot, discard. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil and add salt and pepper.
Serve with plenty of grated pecorino.