Spaghetti with spinach and cavolo nero salsa verde
Pasta with vibrant green veggies (c) Flynn & Tonic
Pasta gets a bit of an unfair rap IMO. It’s always demonised as an anti-health food, probably in part thanks to our mates over on Team Paleo and Atkins. OK sure, if you’re planning to eat your body weight in a cheesy, cream-laden pasta dish then you’re probably not going to win any awards in the nutrition stakes, but pasta can be a great vehicle for getting a fair whack of your daily veggie intake. Still not convinced? You can up the health quota even more by choosing a wholemeal or spelt variety instead of your standard (delicious) white version.
This particular dish was inspired by all the beautiful greens out at the moment – English spinach, kale and cavolo nero all taste amazing in this sauce, but I recommend choosing two (or three!) to mix together to make it more interesting. There’s still a winter chill at night, but by day spring is well and truly in the air, which makes this the perfect meal when you feel like something substantial but not too unhealthy.
The anchovies are the other key ingredient in this dish and before you say ‘Eww gross’ let me promise you, there’s absolutely no ‘fishy’ taste in this – all you’ll get is salt and a rich umami savouriness that you can’t get from normal seasoning alone. If you really, REALLY can’t abide by anchovies then you could replace with half a cup of grated parmesan or Pecorino.
The other element that makes this sauce so delicious is the combination of textures. By putting half the mixture in the food processor you get a pesto-style coating of greens on every strand of spaghetti, while keeping some interest with the whole leaves and garlic slices.
Chilli lovers might want to add a pinch of dried chilli flakes to the sauce, but not too much – you don’t want to drown out the tenderness of the greens. It also tastes great with some toasted pine nuts sprinkled on top, for a bit more of a pesto feel.
The Italians always say the consistency of the sauce should match the shape of the pasta – so in this case I use spaghetti, to go with the long leaves of the cavolo nero and spinach. But as always, if you’ve only got penne in the pantry, just use it! Rules are made to be broken, right?!
You can buy frozen chopped spinach in the supermarket, which is always great to have on standby. Make the sauce with whole leaves as usual (using half the recommended amount). Then, instead of putting half the mixture into the food processor, add the defrosted chopped spinach to your sauce and combine.
- 1 bunch English spinach
- 1 bunch cavolo nero or kale
- 3 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
- Good glug of olive oil
- 5 anchovies (jarred)
- 1 packet (500g) spaghetti, cooked as per manufacturer’s instructions
- Parmesan cheese and black pepper, to serve
- Wash and trim your greens, removing the woody lower stems of the cavolo nero (you can keep the inner ‘spine’).
- Heat a good glug of olive oil in a medium pan and add the garlic. Soften in the oil for a few minutes, then add your anchovies. Break up the anchovies with your cooking spoon and continue to cook for another few minutes, not allowing your garlic to colour.
- Add your greens and sauté until greens are wilted.
- At this point, take the sauce off the heat, remove half the mixture (in particular, include any greens that have heartier stems, as they’ll process well) and put in a food processor. Add around 1tbsp of olive oil. Pulse until mixture resembles a thick paste, like a pesto or salsa verde.
- Add the paste back into the pan, combine, and keep on a low heat. Drain your spaghetti and add one spoonful at a time to the mix, stirring so each strand is well coated.
- Serve with a good crack of black pepper and shaved or grated parmesan. You shouldn’t need any salt because of the anchovies and parmesan.