Sunday Pasta®: Penne al Cavolo Nero (Black Kale)

Sunday Pasta for Penne al Cavolo Nero 640-480

Cancer sucks. I first realized this when I was about 7-years-old, and somehow watched a made for TV movie, Sunshine , in which a young mother dies of cancer. I recently googled it because the only scenes I  vividly remember are her brushing out clumps of hair and the ending when they spread her ashes and drove off to John Denver’s “Country Roads.”  I felt lucky to eventually survive childhood without losing a parent. As an adult, I watched my own mother get diagnosed with breast cancer (survived) and then my father with prostate cancer (didn’t survive). I realized that cancer sucks even more than I had feared because it touches everyone. My dad used to say, “It is what it is.” I say it’s a modern day plague.

My friend Paolo Villoresi was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He was the founder of La Cucina Italiana magazine and is a prolific author and walking encyclopedia of Italian food and culture. After his diagnosis, he started a new food and life blog called Adventure. He’s now committed to a strict Mediterranean-type diet, focusing on cancer fighting foods (and including a daily glass of red wine and some dark chocolate). We recently spoke about the connection between cancer and the food we eat, as well as the importance of finding your purpose and inner peace. Intuitively, we all understand these connections, but with all the intangibles, and the role of luck too, it’s just easier to keep playing Russian roulette rather than address the broader societal implications. I hope we find another approach, and suggest that we start with our food.  Here is one of Paolo’s anti-cancer pasta recipes. Enjoy it in good health, with family and friends.

According to Paolo, “Black Kale belongs to the family of cruciferous vegetables and is an anti-cancer ingredient. It is ideal to eat different types of raw cabbage, but one cannot eat the same thing three times a day! Food must be appetizing to be digested and assimilated well. This recipe is an alternative,  especially appetizing, nutritious, and good.”

Buon Appetito!

Ed Garrubbo

P.S. Check out our wine pairings for this recipe.

Sunday Pasta® Recipe: Penne al Cavolo Nero (Black Kale)
Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 4


1 pound of whole wheat penne
10 ounces black kale (or any variety of kale)
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 ounces black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


Clean the kale leaves, remove the ribs and chop into strips. Add two cups of cold water to a saucepan, add salt and the kale, and cook until the kale’s wrinkles are almost smooth (7-8 minutes). When cooked, remove from heat and drain, keeping the kale’s water (which contains most of the nutrients) set aside.

In a large skillet (big enough to add the penne) add the olive oil, whole garlic cloves (slightly squashed) and the chopped olives. When it begins to sizzle, add the kale and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Then add the kale’s cooking water and cook 3 additional minutes. At this point, you may remove the garlic.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and when it begins to boil, add the pasta. Stir until it boils again. Cook until al dente, and drain, retaining a cup of the cooking liquid.

When the penne are cooked, add to the skillet with the kale. Cook together for 2 or 3 more minutes and adding some of the pasta’s water if needed. Turn off the heat. Sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, stir well again and serve hot.


In order to comment on, you'll need to be logged in. You'll be given the option to log in or create an account when you publish your comment. If you do not log in or create an account, your comment will not be displayed.