What Is Cavolo Nero And What To Do With It

Kale v cavolo nero

In Italian cavolo nero means ‘black cabbage’. It’s a member of the brassica family of vegetables, along with cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, and kale. Unlike a cabbage it doesn’t form a head, but grows more like a collection of palm branches – very like kale in fact. However, whereas kale ranks alongside swedes and marrows in terms of appeal (in spite – or maybe because of – endorsements by Gwyneth Paltrow and Beyoncé Knowles), cavolo nero, can be really delicious.


Now grown in Lincolnshire

It has greenish black leaves which can be up to a yard long, and a bobbly-bubbly sort of texture and it’s traditionally grown in Tuscany (in between the cabbages of the north and the cauliflowers and broccolis of the south). Anyone who is learning Italian will know that some things simply don’t translate…if an Englishman was to announce “they are now growing cavolo nero successfully in Lincolnshire!”, a genuine, surprised response of “Cabbage!” could not, somehow, be taken very seriously… but when an Italian breathes ‘Cavolo!’ with wonder and amazement it sounds wholly plausible.

But it really is true – Lincolnshire is the new Po valley. Just as some of the best champagne grapes are now grown in England…. cavolo nero is now successfully being grown in Lincolnshire. Buy it after frosts have set in – it’s sweeter then.


How to prepare it

Take the thick ribs out by bending the leaf until the leaf comes away and the rib remains sticking out, then just keep pulling to separate the two. Once you have a pile of ribless leaves, shred them with a sharp knife.


How to cook it

If you are serving it as an accompaniment you can simply put the shredded leaves directly into a wok and cook it in its own liquid (like spinach) for about 20 minutes, stirring every now and then. Drain and squeeze off the liquid. Then add some olive oil, or butter, and crushed garlic and fry for a couple of minutes.


how to cook cavolo nero


Freezing it

It freezes well – blanch it for a couple of minutes in boiling salted water, drain, squeeze out the water, and freeze in bags. It keeps for days in the fridge, but the longer it’s left the bitterer it becomes.


How much do you need?

For four people you need about 1 kg (2 lbs) of cavolo nero.


How to use cavolo nero

It’s excellent in soups (in particular the classic Tuscan soup ribollita which also involves cannellini beans, tomatoes and bread); and also stews, pastas and even added to salads.

Ottolenghi (in Simple) serves his with chorizo, preserved lemon, garlic, paprika, lemon juice and soured cream.



For a recipe for pasta with cavolo nero and chorizo, follow this link.

For a Brazilian-style garlicky, shredded cavolo nero, follow this link.

You could also use it to make crisps…follow this link for how to do that.


what is cavolo nero?
Cavolo nero – superior to kale



Related Posts

The Laconia’s luxurious böreks

Long before the gorgeous luxury liner, the Laconia, was turned into a troop ship and sunk in 1942 by a German U-boat, she sailed the…
Read More

On Cantal Cheese

So a friend has bought me some Cantal cheese – it’s new to me, is it just for eating or can I cook with it?…
Read More

How to make luscious, lemony Swedish Hasselback potatoes

A short history of the Hasselback potato The real name of the Hasselback potato is the Swedish, Hasselbackspotatis, because that is where it was invented.…
Read More

Sign up to our Saucy Newsletter

subscribe today and be the first to hear about foodie news and recipes.