I always considered fusilli a funny shape and now that my daughter is a big fan, I cook them every week. This new relationship I have with fusilli has opened new possibilities.
Only now do I realize that not only fusilli are funny and easy to eat (that’s why kids love them) but they’re amongst the best pasta shapes to collect your sauce brilliantly, and that’s a very big plus when you are a pasta lover like I am.
For this recipe, I paired the beautiful fusilli from Rustichella d’Abruzzo with a cavolo nero (Italian Cabbage similar to curly kale) pesto, definitely a more grown-up variation to the famous basil pesto, and also an excellent way to get your daily quota of vegetables in. This hearty pesto is topped with a smoked ricotta sauce that gives a brilliant depth to the dish and plays well with the grassy notes of the cavolo nero and toasted almonds for the crunch and optional chili too.
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
400 g of Fusilli ‘Rustichella d’Abruzzo’
150 ml of cream
150 gr of smoked ricotta (works with other smoked cheeses too)
Dried chili to garnish
Chopped almonds to garnish
Salt and pepper to taste
For the pesto
200 gr of cavolo nero
50 ml of extra virgin olive oil
40 gr of grated Grana Padano cheese
15 gr of almonds
1 garlic clove
Salt and pepper to taste
Start by preparing the pesto and remember any leftovers can be kept for up to 3/4 days in the fridge well covered.
Trim the cavolo nero and remove the woody stalks. You only need the leaves and the tender parts of the stem. Rinse well and cook in salted boiling water for about 2/3 minutes until soft. Cool immediately in iced water to retain the color then drain well but do not over-squeeze.
To prepare the pesto blend the cooked leaves with the oil and all the other ingredients using a processor or blender until you have a grainy paste. If necessary, add a little of the cooking water to make it smoother. Check the seasoning and place it aside.
Now prepare the smoked ricotta sauce.
Gently heat the cream until just reached the boiling point. Now crumble the ricotta into it, turn off the stove, and mix to let the remaining heat melt the cheese gently. If necessary, you can of course blend the sauce until smooth. Check the seasoning and keep warm.
Drop the Fusilli in salted boiling water and cook until al dente following the packet instructions. When ready, drain the pasta but retain some of the cooking water.
Now in a bowl away from the heat toss the pasta with the cavolo nero pesto, add a splash of pasta water to losing it up, and mix well until the fusilli are creamy and well coated with the pesto. Season to taste and plate in shallow bowls. You have to do this step away from the stove as the pesto is meant to stay fresh and vibrant in color and the excessive heat will prevent that.
Top the fusilli with drizzles of warm smoked ricotta sauce, a touch of dried chili (flakes or powdered), and toasted chopped almonds, and enjoy straight away.
Recipe by Danilo Cortellini