A spicy vegetarian pasta with cavolo nero (kale). Who knew healthier eating could be so gratifying?
A dish I’m really, really proud of
I’ve just made it past my first week of healthier eating (apart from Sunday’s foie gras) and, so far, I’ve managed to stick to my healthier exercise plan too.
I’ll even admit that I’ve secretly enjoyed the exercise. A little. If I had a choice, I’d probably still do everything possible to avoid getting sweaty but I’m adult enough to admit that needs must, especially as I’d like to live to a riper old age.
I’d just finished a gruelling 30 minutes on our cross trainer last Saturday when it was time for lunch, and I was faced with the dilemma of being home alone with a grumbling belly. I don’t know about you guys but I’m not a very nice person when I’m hungry. I turn into a complete b*tch, grumpy as hell until food (and it has to be savoury, not sweet!) can be shoved into my gob as quickly as possible.
So imagine my surprise when, despite my hunger, my first revelation that day was that I genuinely wanted to make something that I could feel was healthy, and that I actually didn’t mind having to wait for it.
This recipe formed the moment I opened my fridge door and looked at its contents, and I am genuinely 100% so proud of this dish. It’s nothing new; many of you foodies out there will recognise these core ingredients immediately, but I love it for its simplicity, its flavour and more importantly, how I felt as I ate it.
In our veg drawer, I stood staring at the loveliest bag of cavolo nero (from the brassica family like kale) along with a punnet of plum tomatoes and some fresh chestnut mushrooms. Bam! I knew there and then, the dish I had to have for lunch was a spicy vegetarian spaghetti, made with the veg we had and cooked in the age old trio of olive oil, chilli and some garlic.
As I stood there preparing my ingredients, I kept debating whether I needed to throw in a bit of meat. After all that exercise, my mind really, really craved some meat but I stuck to my guns and thought that I’d cook my dish first; if I found it lacking, I could simply add some ham or something to bulk it up.
And so I came upon my second revelation that day – that as I started tucking into this pasta, all thoughts of meat flew away, and I realised that with recipes like this, I could find ways to reduce my meat consumption without compromising on the joys of eating tasty food.
I demolished, like seriously hoovered up this pasta, in mere minutes. The incredible mix of these great tasting vegetables with the chilli and the garlic and the oil was all consuming. I kept thinking that I should try and at least save a mouthful for my husband – so he could give me his opinion about whether it was as lovely as I thought – but not even a fleck of black pepper was left on the plate by the time I finished.
Instead, when he came home later, I insisted that I make it for him from scratch all over again. My true test was whether my meat-addicted husband would feel equally satisfied eating this meat-free dish, and he was! 🙂
Few recipes make me smile as I write about them but this one truly did. I know it’s quite a basic dish but I couldn’t be prouder of it because it is so simple. A word of warning though, it is spicy (because I left the chilli seeds in) but that was actually what I think made this recipe zing! It also only takes 15 minutes to prepare from start to finish so I know it’s going to make a very regular appearance at our dining room table, whether I’m eating alone again or cooking for many. I really hope you’ll like it as much as I do.
Lots of love
My spicy vegetarian pasta (a meal for one)
Pasta of your choice (for one)
3 cavolo nero leaves, sliced
3-4 plum tomatoes, quartered
3-4 fresh chestnut mushrooms
2 medium cloves of garlic, finely sliced
¾ of a medium red chilli, sliced (de-seed it if you can’t handle too much heat)
2 tablespoons of good olive oil
a knob of butter (about 10 grams)
Salt and pepper for seasoning
(optional) parmesan/pecorino cheese for grating
Firstly, cook your pasta in a pot of salted boiling water and two minutes before it’s done, throw in the cavolo nero as well. After the two minutes, drain your pasta and greens and run them under cold water to stop the pasta and cabbage leaves from cooking further. Drain and set this aside.
In your saucepan, add a good pinch of sea salt to your pan and add your oil and butter. Heat your oil and butter and on a medium heat, gently fry the garlic until it’s golden brown, spooning the butter/oil over your garlic continuously. Throw in the chillies, fry them for a few seconds and then toss in your mushrooms. After no more than 30 seconds to 1 minute of frying your mushrooms, throw the tomatoes in. The tomatoes will start releasing their juices and begin to soften within 30 secs. Toss your pasta and cavolo nero into the mix, and stir for 1 minute.
Pour your pasta into your dish and grate some parmesan or pecorino cheese over the top. You’ll find the pasta will have turned slightly pinkish from absorbing the liquid from your pot (that’s all the juices from the mushrooms, oil, chillies and tomatoes), while your plum tomatoes have softened to become almost like a sauce for your pasta.
I also think this dish would be lovely if you add a squeeze of lemon or a few kernels of toasted pine nuts.
You might need a bib because if you eat this as quickly as I did, there’ll definitely be slurp marks on your clothes. LOL.