Cabbage is hardly the sexiest vegetable, but I’ve grown to love it over the last few years. The trick for me was to move beyond the somewhat boring cabbage soup and ever-polarizing cole slaw, and to focus on letting the cabbage be the star. Where I really fell hard was at lunch with my friend Claudia early last year. We met at A Voce in New York City, and spent a lovely afternoon lingering over a series of shared dishes. When we got to our pasta courses, I was surprised that the one that really wowed me was a simple spaghetti with cabbage, pancetta, and pecorino. The texture of the cabbage was killer, silky and meltingly tender, and I’ve tried many times to replicate that dish, but I never got it quite right until last night.
I started with bacon from Simmons Farm, slicing a few strips into batons and crisping them in a little bit of olive oil while my pasta water got boiling in a separate pot. I removed the bacon and set it aside to drain, then added some sliced red onion and about 5 cups of thinly sliced red cabbage to the hot fat. I gave it a sprinkle of salt, tossed everything until it was coated with oil, then covered the pan and let it cook down. After 10 minutes or so, I added about half a cup of chicken stock and a few splashes of Sherry vinegar, then let it continue cooking, uncovered, until most of the liquid was reduced. I pulled my spaghetti from its cooking water when it was tender but still had a little bite, and added it to the cabbage to finish cooking. I added about two-thirds of the crispy bacon bits off the heat, along with plenty of freshly grated pecorino and cracked black pepper, and tossed it until everything was incorporated. To add a little textural contrast, I combined the remaining bacon with some fresh thyme and chopped hazelnuts, which I sprinkled on top of each serving.
In short, this was a hit. I loved getting ribbons of soft cabbage with every twirl of pasta, and that the bacon was present but subtle, and I was delighted at how beautifully the hazelnuts worked with the other flavors in the dish. I can’t wait to tuck into my leftovers for lunch.
On an unrelated note, can you help us find a home for this beautiful little cat? A local business which shall remain nameless and which used to occupy the space next door to my friend’s office relocated recently, and cruelly left her behind. It has been weeks now, and we assume they are not coming back for her. My friend has cared for her at his office since she was abandoned and reports that she is sweet and affectionate, a non-stop purring machine. He can’t keep her due to severe allergy issues, but he wants to find her the good home she deserves. If we didn’t have three already I’d grab her in a heartbeat, but perhaps you or someone you know has room in your home and heart for her. Thank you.