Spaghetti with Cavolo Nero & Almonds

By Lee Jackson ↣ Published on: October 16, 2019

Last Updated: January 28th, 20241 Comment on Spaghetti with Cavolo Nero & Almonds

This vibrant cavolo nero pasta is my go-to pasta dish when I want a fix of flavour, without the wait. My spaghetti recipe is ready in under 30 minutes and a visual and flavour sensation to boot.

A bowl of spaghetti in a green puree of cavolo nero cabbage

My pasta with Cavolo Nero & Almonds (pasta con cavolo nero e mandorle) is one of those dishes that pop up once in a while that change your life forever.

A dish so visually striking, so simple and so incredibly delicious that you wonder why or how you'd not experienced it in your life before.

If you're looking at how to cook cavolo nero in an exciting way, the search is over! In this recipe the cabbage is blended with a little garlic and nuts to create a cooked pesto (paste) that is then stirred into pasta.

I first ate a fresh spaghetti version of this in Rome which absolutely blew my socks off. As is typical with Italian food, there's not a lot to it, but boy, does it pack a punch! Who knew cabbage could taste THIS good!? The Italians, of course.

Spaghetti with Cavolo Nero & Almonds

What is Cavolo Nero?

Cavolo Nero is the Italian name, but this cabbage goes under a world of other pseudonyms, such as Tuscan Cabbage, Tuscan Kale, Lacinato Kale, Italian kale, Dinosaur Kale, Flat Back kale, Palm Tree Kale, Black Tuscan Palm or just plain old Kale. It's utterly exhausting! I just go by its Italian name - Cavolo Nero!

Cavolo Nero directly translates as Black Cabbage, with long, dark green stems that looks link kale or chard. It has an earthy, irony flavour with more flavour than say, kale.

If you're keen to learn more about Cavolo Nero, check out this fascinating article How to Grow Lacianto Kale from Happy DIY Home.

A bowl of spaghetti in a green puree of cavolo nero cabbage

Why it works

  • It's simple. There is no giant roll call of ingredients. 6 simple ingredients. That's it.
  • It's meat free - The cabbage it centre stage. The flavour is a real surprise - it's cabbage like you've never tasted before.
  • The sauce is stunning! Look at the colour!! We eat with our eyes, and this is as appealing as it gets.
The ingredients for Cavolo Nero Spaghetti

Stuff you'll need

As with many Italian pasta dishes, this my cavolo nero pasta recipe is sparse with ingredients, but each is put to good use in creating something magical. Here are the key ingredients.

  • Cavolo Nero Cabbage - this is the key flavour for the dish and it's amazing how flavourful it becomes. We use only the leaves and discard the stems.
  • Almonds - slivered almonds give the cabbage pesto its creaminess. Interestingly, the nuts are also cooked alongside the cabbage, I presume to soften them to enable the lux creaminess.
  • Garlic - a little garlic gives more depth of flavour.
  • Cheese, butter and oil - are added for flavour and to up the creaminess even further.
A bowl of spaghetti in a green puree of cavolo nero cabbage

Step by Step

The dish is so easy to make at home, and quick too. You can make the sauce in advance if you like and then just make the pasta when you're ready and warm it through at stage 6. Watch the video below to how easily things come together.

  1. Chop the cabbage - in a satisfying action, strip each cabbage leaf by pulling upwards to remove the leaves. Discard the stems and then chop the leaves roughly.
  2. Cook the cabbage - Cook the cabbage in lightly salted water with the almonds and garlic.
  3. Withhold some cooking liquid - We'll use a little in the puree and also when the pasta is combined with the sauce, so it's good to have about a cupful.
  4. Add the butter cheese & oil - when the cabbage is cooked, drain and then add the butter, cheese and oil add a bout 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.
  5. Blend - Create the puree/pesto by blending until smooth.
  6. Mix with pasta - Cook your pasta (I use spaghetti mostly), and then combine a little of the sauce. Add a drizzle of the cabbage cooking liquid.
  7. That's it, you're good to serve!
Chopping the cavolo nero cabbage for Pasta with Cavolo Nero & Almonds
Coiling the cabbage, almonds and garlic for Pasta with Cavolo Nero & Almonds
Retaining some of the cabbage cooking liquid for Pasta with Cavolo Nero & Almonds
Adding butter, cheese and olive oil to the cabbage for Pasta with Cavolo Nero & Almonds
Making a puree of the cooked cabbage for Pasta with Cavolo Nero & Almonds
Combining the cabbage pesto with spaghetti in a pan for Pasta with Cavolo Nero & Almonds

Pro Tips to make your life easier

  • Make in advance - the cavolo nero pasta sauce can be made in advance. That means all you need to do is cook your pasta and combine with the sauce.
  • If you didn't keep the reserved cabbage cooking liquid (I often forget, and drain it away), use a little of your pasta cooking liquid instead to help create a good creamy texture to the sauce.

Substitutions

  • Cavolo nero - You can use kale, chard or collard greens too. It's particularly tasty with chard/silverbeet leaves.
  • Nuts - Instead of almonds, I often use pine nuts as they create a wonderful creaminess. You could also use walnuts or even hazelnuts.
  • Pasta - Spaghetti is great, but I'll make my cavolo nero pasta using any type of pasta I have at home. Penne, fusilli, rigatoni, paccheri, gnocchi, bucatini and more. They all work with this delicious vivid green sauce.
  • Cheese - A hard cheese like Parmigiana Reggiano, Grana Padano or Pecorino Romano are the best. I also used a little gorgonzola on one occasion which was fabulous too.
A bowl of spaghetti in a green puree of cavolo nero cabbage

Serving and storing suggestions

  • Primi or Secondi - I like to serve simply as a Primi pasta course or the main course (secondi), it's filling enough to be the whole meal for sure!
  • Bacon - On occasion, I sometimes fry a slice of pancetta/bacon until crisp and pop that on top. I've also sprinkled some crispy guanciale (pork cheek) on top too.
  • Serve hot - It's best served hot as soon as it's done. Leftovers will reheat in a pan or microwave. I'll add a little water to avoid it drying up too much.
  • Fridge (sauce only): If you're making the cavolo nero sauce in advance it'll stay fresh for a couple of days in a sealed container in the fridge.
  • Freezer (sauce only): You can freeze the cavolo nero sauce for 3+ months. I freeze in a thick freezer bag and flatten out into a thin layer, squeezing out any air. It means it'll defrost quickly when I'm ready to use.
  • Fridge (with pasta): Leftovers will stay fresh for 1-2 days. Add a little water when reheating.
  • Freezer (with pasta): It's not the best from the freezer in all honesty. Best to serve fresh or keep in the fridge if you don't eat it all in one sitting!
A bowl of spaghetti in a green puree of cavolo nero cabbage

Ready to get cooking?

Cavolo nero was the one pasta dish which literally changed my life! I couldn't get enough of it. I must have made this dish hundreds of times over the years and it's a fail safe, guaranteed delight.

It's the most requested pasta dish at home, and that's fine by me because it's so quick and easy to get on the plate. I'd go as far as to say it's probably my favourite pasta dish of all time. I'm convinced you'll agree!

Any Questions? (FAQ)

Have a question about this Cavolo Nero pasta? let me know in the comments.

Is cavolo nero the same as kale?

It's confusing because Cavolo Nero has so many names! Cavolo Nero is the Italian name, meaning 'Black Cabbage' - it has a more robust, rich iron flavour than kale which makes it perfect for a pesto puree.

What is a cavolo nero substitute?

You can make using kale, collard greens and chard/silverbeet.

Is cavolo nero healthy?

It's a good supplier of vitamins A, C and K, while also being a good source of B vitamins. It's a great choice as part of a healthy diet.

 

A bowl of spaghetti in a green puree of cavolo nero cabbage

Spaghetti with Cavolo Nero & Almonds

Rate this recipe

4.88 from 8 votes
Print Recipe Pin Recipe Save Recipe
Recipe by Lee
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time25 minutes
Servings (adjustable) 4
Calories (per serving) | 233

Video Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch Cavalo Nero
  • 1/3 cup slithered almonds
  • 1 large clove garlic (roughly chopped)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino cheese
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 packet of spaghetti

Instructions

  • Fill a large pan with water, season with a little salt and set over a medium/high heat to come to a boil.
  • Meanwhile, strip the cabbage leaves from the stems. Discard the stems and chop the leaves into large pieces.
  • When the water boils, tip in the cabbage, almonds and garlic. Press down into the water then let them simmer gently for 6-7 minutes. Drain into a colander, retaining the cooking liquid.
  • Put the cabbage mix into a food processor along with the olive oil, butter and cheese - you can also use a stick blender to save the mess. Season with plenty of salt & pepper, then blend until you have a smooth puree. Add a little of the cooking liquid to loosen the mix slightly.
  • Cook your spaghetti to the packet instructions in a large pan of salted water. When done, drain and tip into a large pan alongside the cabbage. Toss thoroughly to coat.
  • I always add a spoonful or two of the pasta cooking water as the pasta will always soak up more liquid than you think, and I think we can all agree that a dry pasta is never fun. Portion into bowls, then dust generously with more Parmigiano Reggiano and you're good to go!

Notes

Substitutions
  • Cavolo nero - substitute the cavolo nero with kale, chard or collard greens too. 
  • Nuts - Instead of almonds, I often use pine nuts. You could also use walnuts or even hazelnuts.
  • Pasta - I'll make my cavolo nero pasta using any type of pasta I have at home. Spaghetti, Penne, fusilli, rigatoni, paccheri, gnocchi, bucatini and more.
  • Cheese - A hard cheese like Parmigiana Reggiano, Grana Padano or Pecorino Romano are the best.
Serving
  • Primi or Secondi - I like to serve simply as a Primi pasta course or the main course (secondi). Great for a quick and easy lunch.
  • Bacon - On occasion, I sometimes fry a slice of Italian pancetta/bacon until crisp and pop that on top. I've also sprinkled some crispy guanciale (pork cheek) on top too.
  • Serve hot - It's best served hot as soon as it's done. Leftovers will reheat in a pan or microwave. I'll add a little water to avoid it drying up too much.
Storage
  • Fridge (sauce only): If you're making the cavolo nero sauce in advance it'll stay fresh for a couple of days in a sealed container in the fridge.
  • Freezer (sauce only): You can freeze the cavolo nero sauce for 3+ months. I freeze in a thick freezer bag and flatten out into a thin layer, squeezing out any air. It means it'll defrost quickly when I'm ready to use.
  • Fridge (with pasta): Leftovers will stay fresh for 1-2 days. Add a little water when reheating.
  • Freezer (with pasta): It's not the best from the freezer in all honesty. Best to serve fresh or keep in the fridge if you don't eat it all in one sitting!

Nutrition

Calories: 233kcal (12%) | Carbohydrates: 3g (1%) | Protein: 5g (10%) | Fat: 23g (35%) | Saturated Fat: 5g (31%) | Cholesterol: 13mg (4%) | Sodium: 137mg (6%) | Potassium: 73mg (2%) | Fiber: 1g (4%) | Sugar: 1g (1%) | Vitamin A: 429IU (9%) | Vitamin C: 4mg (5%) | Calcium: 124mg (12%) | Iron: 1mg (6%)
Tried this Recipe? Tag me Today!Mention @CookEatWorld or tag #cookeatworld!

This recipe uses affiliations and may receive a commission based on your activity (link clicks). Learn more.