A toothsome treat for a work night

The recipe
Fill a large pan with water, bring to the boil and salt the water. Add 200g of orzo or other small pasta and cook for 9 minutes, or as per the makers instructions, then drain through a sieve. Run cold water through the pasta and set aside.

Trim 100g of cavolo nero into 8cm lengths, add it to a pan of boiling water, cook for 4 minutes, then drain and plunge into cold water. Wipe the pan then pour in 250ml of double cream. Grate 100g of smoked cheddar into the cream, season with black pepper then bring to the boil. Remove from the heat immediately.

Fold the orzo and drained cavolo nero into the cream and cheese then tip into a shallow baking dish and grate 25g of parmesan cheese over the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes in a preheated oven at 180C/gas mark 6.

The trick
Drain the greens thoroughly before adding to the pasta and its sauce, if necessary patting them dry with kitchen paper. If you are cooking the pasta in advance, toss it after draining with 1 tbsp of olive oil to stop it sticking.

The twist
A layer of crumbs, fine, white and dotted with butter, will turn this dish into an extremely substantial meal for a cold night.

Bright green cabbage perhaps the heart leaves of a Savoy will put a spring in its step if you dont like the dark, earthy tones of cavolo nero. Mushrooms, button-sized, halved and tossed in butter and chopped tarragon, would be a splendid addition.

Email Nigel at nigel.slater@observer.co.uk or follow him on Twitter @NigelSlater

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