I'm sure it comes as no surprise that I've long been in love with everything Italian. Wherever you go, people seem united by a love of good food, family and life in general, which is probably why I've always found it such an inspirational country.
This pasta dish is one of the most elegant that winter offers. I first had a similar version in Tuscany about 15 years ago. It's usually made with cavolo nero but you could make it with kale or any dark cabbage. It's like a winter pesto and it's not just delicious, it's also sexy and classy. You can start and finish making this within 15 or 20 minutes and the results will blow your mind.
Really good extra virgin olive oil helps make this special, so if you can, get your hands on some good stuff. A lot of people are confused about olive oil. Now is the time to buy new season oil. It costs more than the average bottle, but flavour-wise and cooking-wise, these oils will absolutely transform everyday ingredients into something incredible. It really is an investment worth making. Aside from pasta, good olive oil stirred through mashed potato, lugged over garlic bruschetta or even drizzled on mozzarella with grated chili – it's something else. All I know is, the Italians have got it right.
1 pound (500 grams) cavolo nero (a.k.a. dinosaur kale or black kale)
2 cloves of garlic
Sea salt and black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil (new season, if you can get it)
12 ounces (340 grams) spaghetti or tagliatelle
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Trim and roughly chop the cavolo nero, then peel the cloves of garlic, leaving them whole.
Place into a large pan of boiling salted water over a medium-high heat.
Bring back to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes, or until the leaves are cooked through.
Drain and leave to steam dry for a few minutes, then place the greens and garlic in a food processor or blender with a pinch of sea salt and black pepper and a few lugs of oil. Blitz to a smooth, vibrant dressing.
Cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling salted water according to the packet instructions.
Reserving a cup of the cooking water, drain the pasta and return to the pan.
Toss the dressing through the pasta, adding splashes of the reserved pasta water to loosen, if needed.
Stir in most of the Parmesan, and serve immediately, with extra gratings of cheese on top.