Caramelized Cabbage and Walnut Pasta

Caramelized Cabbage and Walnut Pasta

A single, modest cabbage goes a long way in this recipe. Green cabbage (though you could also use Savoy) becomes jammy and sweet when cooked with aromatic leeks and garlic for 15 minutes, a practically effortless concoction to toss with pasta. Cumin seeds add just the right amount of earthiness along with a subtle citrus tone; add more if you want a pronounced flavor, or substitute with fennel seeds or caraway. The walnuts balance out the sweetness of the cabbage and leeks, and introduce a slight bitterness and crunch. Store-bought roasted walnuts are a time saver here, but if you want them extra dark and crispy, toast them for 6 to 8 minutes in a 325-degree oven until deeply golden. If you have chives or scallions on hand, toss these in at the end for a lively finish.
  • Total:
  • Serves: 4 persons



  1. Step 1

    Heat a large Dutch oven or pot over medium. Add the olive oil and butter. When the butter has melted, add cumin seeds and bloom for 15 seconds, then add the leeks, garlic, cabbage and 2 teaspoons salt, and stir for 3 to 4 minutes until wilted. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes without stirring. Check every few minutes to make sure the bottom is not burning. If needed, give it a stir.
  2. Step 2

    After 10 minutes, remove the lid from the cabbage and stir. Cover and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes, until it is supersweet and tender. Taste and season with kosher salt.
  3. Step 3

    Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook according to package instructions. When the pasta is ready, do not drain, but use tongs to drag the pasta out of its cooking water and straight into the pot with the cabbage. Add about 1 cup of pasta cooking water, along with the pecorino and the black pepper. Toss well to combine.
  4. Step 4

    Add lemon juice. Taste, adjusting seasonings with more salt, pepper or lemon, if needed. To serve, scatter with walnuts and finish with more pecorino and chopped chives, if using.