One of the mightiest recipes to come out of the US in recent years is Joshua McFadden’s kale sauce pasta, in which 450g cavolo nero is transformed into a deeply delicious, jade-coloured pasta sauce. It’s impressive on many levels: the sheer volume of green, for a start, the simplicity of it and the excellent flavour (which is in part, I think, due to the parmesan). I have made it multiple times, but without the parmesan, adding some fennel, chilli and miso. Like all the best recipes, it has taken on new life in my kitchen and, with thanks to Joshua, I’d like to share my adaptation with you.
Miso butter greens pasta
You’ll need a blender and a very large pot with a lid to make this dish. If you buy ready-sliced cavolo nero or kale, the stems will most likely be tender; if buying them whole, however, or if the stems are thicker than 1cm, you’ll need to strip off the leaves (do this simply by holding on tight and running your hand up the stem) and slice them by hand. Either compost the stems or freeze them to add to veg stock or soups.
Prep 10 min
Cook 45 min
60g unsalted vegan butter – I like Flora
5 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
½ tsp fennel seeds
½ tsp chilli flakes
100g broccoli, chopped
400g cavolo nero, or kale, leaves stripped off and sliced
¾ tsp salt
2½ tbsp white miso
40ml olive oil
Chilli oil, or extra-virgin olive oil, to finish – I like Lee Kum Kee’s, which is widely available in supermarkets
Melt the butter in a saucepan on a medium heat. When it’s bubbling, add the garlic, fennel seeds and chilli flakes, and fry, stirring, for two to three minutes, until the garlic smell changes from raw to cooked and a bit like garlic bread.
Add the broccoli, cavolo nero, 250ml water and salt, stir (this will be challenging, but persevere), cover, turn down the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring every few minutes, for about eight to 10 minutes, until the greens have wilted and gone tender.
Scrape all the contents of the cavolo nero pan into a blender/food processor, add the miso and olive oil, and blend to a smooth sauce, scraping down the sides as necessary; add a little water, if necessary, to create a silky-smooth sauce (I added about four tablespoons).
Rinse out the greens pot, fill with water (do not salt it; miso is already quite salty, and you can always adjust the seasoning later) and bring to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions and, when it’s got a minute to go, gently lower a mug into the water and scoop out a good amount of the starchy cooking water. Drain the pasta, return to the pot and add the sauce and toss with five or six tablespoons of the cooking water to get it to a consistency you like. Taste and add salt, if need be.
Serve in shallow bowls topped with a good drizzle of chilli oil.