Guest ingredient: cavolo nero
Cavolo nero is an Italian variety of cabbage ("black cabbage") and a favourite vegetable ingredient in a minestrone.
Remove the tough, inner stalk or husk, then chop the leaves and add to your favourite minestrone recipe, along with a healthy amount of diced, sauteed pancetta or bacon and plenty of freshly grated parmesan at the end for a Tuscan version of an old favourite.
To make a hearty, quick braise that will go well with grilled fish, blanch some chopped cavolo nero leaves in salted boiling water for about five minutes, refresh in cold water and drain well. Sweat finely sliced garlic and chilli in a small amount of extra-virgin olive oil in a large casserole-style pot, add the cavolo nero and enough chicken stock to generously cover the greens and simmer for about 20 minutes. Finish with a knob of butter, season and serve with grilled fish and lemon wedges.
Make a winter tart using braised cavolo nero left over from the above recipe. Roll out a round piece of puff pastry, about the size of a saucer, top with pieces of the braised cabbage, chunks of taleggio cheese, some extra slices of chilli and bake at 200C for 10 minutes until the cheese is oozing. Finish with a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar and serve immediately.
To use up extra bolognese sauce and make a terrific Sunday lunch snack, blanch whole cavolo nero leaves as per the previous recipes and dry the leaves on paper towels. Then lay out flat and fill with a large spoonful of cold bolognese sauce and some grated mozzarella and wrap up into a small, tight parcel. Place the cavolo nero parcels in a casserole dish and spoon over some canned chopped tomato, then bake in a hot oven for 30 minutes.
What do you do with cavolo nero?