This is another variation – an elevation, we go so far as to say! – of bacon and cabbage. Leftover ham is one of the most useful things you can have in your fridge. It’s unbeatable here paired with its traditional companion – cabbage – and a garlicky pesto. Wild garlic pops up everywhere in early spring; make a big batch of this pesto when it’s in season and you’ll use it year round.
Penne Pasta with Ham, Cabbage, Wild Garlic Pesto and Pickled Walnut
200g penne pasta
1 tbsp butter
1 savoy cabbage, shredded
100g cooked ham, or speck, prosciutto or pancetta
1 pickled walnut, sliced
grated Parmesan cheese, to serve
For the pesto
75g wild garlic, stalks removed
30g fresh flat-leaf parsley, stalks removed
juice of ½ a lemon
80ml rapeseed oil, plus extra to seal the jar
30g Parmesan cheese, grated
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Put the ingredients for the pesto into a food processor and blitz to a smooth paste. Decant into a sterilised jar and pour a little rapeseed oil over the top to seal. Refrigerate until needed (it will keep this way for 2 weeks).
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, add the penne and cook according to the packet instructions.
Meanwhile, put the butter and a drop of olive oil into a large, heavy-based frying pan on a medium heat and add the shredded cabbage. Season with a little salt and pepper. Cook the cabbage for 3-4 minutes until wilted* then tear in the ham and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add a little of the pasta water if it looks dry.
Add 2 tbsp of the wild garlic pesto and stir to combine, then cook for a further 2-3 minutes. When the pasta is cooked, drain in a colander and add to the pan, stirring the sauce into the pasta until it is all well coated. Serve with a few slices of pickled walnut?on top, and offer some extra grated Parmesan.
*We would usually cook the cabbage so that it’s softer and less crisp than the cabbage in the photograph. You can cook it to taste.
Extracted from The Currabinny Cookbook by James Kavanagh and William Murray (Penguin Ireland, approx €23).