Cabbage and pork in some form is an obvious combination, but I find the cabbage pancetta combination in this pasta, especially with the thyme and garlic, is quite different from, for example, the classic cabbage and bacon. Tossing mozzarella through so it melts all over the pasta and cabbage might seem strange, and it is messy, but so so yummy! The almonds, or you could use pine nuts, add some necessary crunch. Overall, it’s comfort food, but with a twist…
Apart from one child who doesn’t like pasta, and one that doesn’t like cheese, this is a real family favourite! Actually the meal adapts to those dislikes quite easily. For Miss Lego I give her mostly the toppings and a little pasta, while I dish up Mr Minecraft’s before I add the cheese.
Pasta with Pancetta and Cabbage
Adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe in The Return of the Naked Chef
Serves six, or four with leftovers for lunch
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- ½ medium cabbage (any green cabbage is fine)
- 10 slices pancetta
- 2 cloves garlic
- few sprigs thyme (or ¼ tsp dried)
- ½ c slivered almonds
- 200-300g mozzarella
- 500g short pasta (fusilli, farfalle, penne are all good)
- parmesan to serve
Cut cabbage in quarters, remove the core, and slice thinly across each quarter. Roughly chop the pancetta, and crush or finely slice the garlic. If using fresh thyme, pull the leaves off the stalks.
Put a large pot of salted water on to boil. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat and fry almonds until brown. Stir regularly and don’t walk away as they burn easily! Take out the almonds and put aside.
To the same pan, add the oil and pancetta and fry gently until slightly brown and starting to crisp. Add the garlic and thyme and fry for a couple of minutes. Now pile in the cabbage – it will look like a huge amount, but keep turning it over in the pan and it will start to wilt. You want it to lightly cook and brown in patches but not burn, so if the bottom of the pan is sticking, add a small amount of water and/or cover the pan so it steams.
While the cabbage is cooking, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook as per packet directions. Drain, reserving some of the water. Once the cabbage is cooked as much as you like, mix through the pasta, then the chopped mozzarella, plus a small amount of the pasta water if needed. Stir all together into a gloriously sticky stringy mess! Scatter with the almonds. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve with grated parmesan.