More Fun with Cabbage and Bacon

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.

12 thoughts on “More Fun with Cabbage and Bacon

  1. This is a great use for cabbage, a vegetable which I think truly gets a bad rap – probably from that pesky coleslaw you mention. But cooked, it is just delicious, and this sounds wonderful. Thanks for sharing!

  2. That looks delicious! Cabbage, pancetta and pecorino… what a good idea. I’ll have to try it asap.

    As for the kitty, what about Chloe? Or Emma? I like to name animals with people names. My cat’s name is Ernest.

  3. I constantly try and come up with things to do with cabbage. Usually theres just a half used shrivelly head in my fridge from using it for taco topping. It’s good and cheap and maybe I’ll give this a swing.
    I would love to acquire a new furry friend, however the current one has a few fear issues with cats. She’s really cute though!

  4. Jen,
    I loved A Voce and heard they opened another one in the Time Warner Bldg on Columbus Circle.

    Regarding Miss Kitty, she is gorgeous, and I hope someone in Rhode Island takes her.
    People stink. How do you leave a pet behind. This makes me so angry!
    We are in New Jersey, or else I might take her! Since we just lost our Shasta of 20 years. back in July.

  5. Jennifer Hess says:

    Amy – Thanks! And I agree, it is totally underrated.

    Joy – Thank you! I think cabbage deserves a new image :)

    Chiara – Thanks! Ernest is such a cute name for a cat. We need to find this girl a home first before thinking about names :)

    Liz – I love cabbage as a taco topping, too. And it’s crazy how inexpensive it is.

    Stacey – Thanks, and I am so sorry about your Shasta.

    Joyce – Join the club! I can’t resist those furry little faces.

    Jennifer – No leads yet, unfortunately.

  6. Mary Rex says:

    The cabbage pasta dish looks divine…but my heart is breaking over the darling kitty. The people who dumped her should quite honestly be arrested for animal cruelty. Please report them to the proper authorities.
    I have just taken in 2 kittens who were dumped in my neighborhood. If everyone would just spay and neuter their pets, there would not be so many thousands without homes.

  7. this looked so so interesting, i made a varient last week [posting an image and linking to your site]. I added sauteed cauliflower, smashed pine nuts + field salad [lamb’s lettuce / mache] at the end. I was blown away at how great the cabbage was + how everything came together, also the price tag is a very welcome thing. we did another varient the next night with just the cabbage + bacon + continueing to cook in the same manner.
    this preperation is quick but brought out the best elements of the vegetable.
    so thank you thank you, for sharing + giving inspiration yet again. :D

  8. Yummy dish! i love how cabbage gets so mild and sweet when it’s gently cooked.

    Poor kitty…she looks totally adorable. What kind of horrible people could have just abandoned her??

  9. Suz says:

    Thank you so much for this “not-a-recipe”! I love reading your blog because it gives me ideas for food pairings that I never would come up with on my own! I used this flavor profile tonight but used walnut oil (since I didn’t have any hazelnuts). It was such a great dinner and I have you to thank!

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