Cavolo nero risotto is a fresh, simple yet delicious meal that's perfect for date night or just for a weekend treat. Light and full of flavour, this kale risotto is naturally creamy and moreish and pairs perfectly with a glass of white!
If you've been on Skinny Spatula before, you may already know that I'm a massive fan of kale and cavolo nero is my absolute favourite.
I like to add it to soups, stews, pasta and everything in between. So it was only a matter of time until I came up with a cavolo nero risotto.
The result is a creamy, light, bright risotto that's definitely a crowd-pleaser. This is a type of recipe that you can cook for your family for a laid-back Sunday meal or have in your repertoire for Valentine's Day.
The recipe as written is made with pancetta for extra flavour, but you can easily make this kale risotto vegetarian — see the tips in the "Make this kale risotto vegetarian" section below.
What do you need to make cavolo nero risotto
Olive oil + butter — Butter is the perfect risotto base since it makes it creamy and adds a distinctive taste.
However, butter burns rapidly, so combining it with olive oil will help to slow this down.
Also, olive oil is healthier than butter, so combining the two gives you the best of both worlds.
Pancetta — I only use 100 g (3.5 oz) pancetta for this cavolo nero risotto — it's just to give it a bit of flavour. Smoked bacon is another great choice.
Onion and garlic — Fresh onion and garlic are best for this risotto. You can skip the garlic if you don't like it in risotto.
Carnaroli rice — Carnaroli rice is the best choice for risottos, although any Italian short-grain rice such as Arborio or Vialone would do.
Only use short-grain rice since the high starch content absorbs less liquid, resulting in a creamy risotto. Remember that you should never rinse.
White wine — Any dry white wine works for risotto — I typically use a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.
Chicken stock — Use the best quality shop-bought chicken stock you can find. It will make a big difference in the flavor of the risotto. It's even better if you can make your own.
Cavolo nero — Also known as black kale, Tuscan kale or lacinato kale, cavolo nero is a curly, meaty type of kale. You'll need 6 to 8 large leaves for this risotto. Remove the hard stems and shred the kale before adding it to the risotto.
How to make it?
Add the butter to the pan and allow it to melt, then add the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes until slightly softened.
Stir in the garlic and continue to cook for another minute until fragrant.
Add the rice to the pan and toast it for 2-3 minutes, stirring often.
Pour in the white wine and cook for 1-2 minutes until the alcohol almost evaporates.
Add ⅓ of the chicken stock and simmer on low-medium heat, stirring often but not continuously until there's almost no liquid left. Repeat with another ⅓ of the stock.
Add the remaining stock and cavolo nero and continue to simmer until the kale wilts and the risotto becomes creamy (but not too dry).
Add the cooked pancetta back to the pan, then stir in the grated Parmesan.
Season to taste and serve immediately, with some extra grated Parmesan on top, if you like.
Make this Cavolo Nero risotto vegetarian
Parmiggiano Reggiano, the most common choice for risotto, is not vegetarian, unfortunately, as it's made with animal rennet.
The good news is that you can find vegetarian-friendly hard cheeses with the same texture as Parmesan in most supermarkets.
Recipe notes and tips
- Cooking times will vary based on how quickly the rice absorbs the liquid. However, don't try to speed up the process by increasing the heat.
- If you run out of chicken stock at the end and need more liquid, warm up some water and add it one ladle at a time. Make sure the water is hot, though, or the risotto will cool and you'll have to bring it back to a simmer.
- You can add some roast chicken to this risotto. Add it together with the cooked pancetta and allow it to heat through.
If you liked this cavolo nero risotto, you might also like some of my other delicious risotto recipes:
- Risotto alla Zucca (Butternut Squash Risotto)
- Bacon and Chicken Risotto
- Risotto All'Amatriciana
- Risotto with Italian Sausage (Risotto con Salsiccia)
- Creamy Smoked Salmon and Rocket Risotto
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 100 g (3.5 oz) pancetta cut into small pieces
- 20 g (1 tablespoon) unsalted butter
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 300 g (10.5 oz) Carnaroli rice
- 125 g (½ cup) dry white wine
- 1.25 (5 cups) litres chicken stock
- 6-8 leaves cavolo nero, hard stems removed, shredded
- 30 g (¼ cup) grated Parmesan
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the oil in a large, deep pan or a Dutch oven and fry the pancetta for 2-3 minutes over medium heat until crispy. Remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon and set it aside.
- Add the butter to the pan and allow it to melt, then add the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes until slightly softened.
- Stir in the garlic and continue to cook for another minute until fragrant.
- Add the rice to the pan and toast it for 2-3 minutes, stirring often.
- Pour in the white wine and cook for 1-2 minutes until the alcohol almost evaporates.
- Add ⅓ of the chicken stock and simmer on low-medium heat, stirring often but not continuously until there’s almost no liquid left. Repeat with another ⅓ of the stock.
- Add the remaining stock and cavolo nero and continue to simmer until the kale wilts and the risotto becomes creamy (but not too dry).
- Add the cooked pancetta back to the pan, then stir in the grated Parmesan. Season to taste and serve immediately, with some extra grated Parmesan on top, if you like.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 477Total Fat: 27gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 45mgSodium: 674mgCarbohydrates: 37gFiber: 1gSugar: 6gProtein: 15g
Nutritional information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator.