This delightfully cheesy, creamy smoky pasta is my favorite way to enjoy red cabbage! There is so much flavor in the sauce, while being vegetarian and low in effort. Eat this on its own or treat it as a base recipe and add extra fillings and toppings.
So this pinky purple pasta is clearly nice to look at! And then you take a bite, you get a hit of smoky cheesy garlicky goodness, and it’s a lot better than you expected.
I set about creating this recipe because I am always ending up with cabbage heads in the fridge for a long time after making taco slaw. The slaw uses a tiny bit, and then the rest sits around for ages while I procrastinate on using it up because, I dunno, red cabbage isn’t the most enticing ingredient in the fridge. But eventually, this recipe clicked into place, and it felt like something worth sharing. It’s tasty and versatile and it suits those “cleaning out the fridge” kind of nights.
The recipe I’m giving you today is what I consider to be a base recipe: good enough on its own, but with a lot of potential for customizing and additions, so stick with me for some ideas!
Ingredient Notes: What You Need & What’s Important
- Red cabbage: My heads of cabbage are pretty small so I’m using a whole one. But a larger cabbage head, you’d only want half.
- Red onions: One or two, Mine are small-medium sized, so I used two. American onions tend to be bigger so if you’re in the US, use one.
- Dried pasta: You can use anything for this but I definitely prefer a long pasta shape. The shredded cabbage integrates really nicely with the long strands. Spaghetti, bucatini, linguine, tagliatelle, etc.
- Smoked cheese: I use smoked cheddar, but smoked gouda would work too. This is such a great ingredient for this pasta, but I do appreciate that it’s not something everyone has lying around all the time! If you really can’t use it, I would just make sure you’ve got a really strong and flavorful cheese available. Something along the lines of parmesan or gruyere (just watch out for animal rennet if you need this to be vegetarian). I would also think about adding a teaspoon of smoked paprika when you add the mixed herbs.
- Lemon, garlic and sugar: all there to add some flavor to our onion-cabbage mix.
- Provencal herb mix: if you don’t have provencal herbs, add whatever herb mix you enjoy or just throw in some dried thyme + dried parsley.
- Dijon mustard: Gives a nice boost to the cheesy flavor. Use wholegrain mustard if you prefer.
- Cream: I used double (heavy) cream, but I’ve made it with single (light) cream and that works fine too: use a little more (go up to 1 cup / 250ml) and you will have a slightly looser sauce.
Variations & How to Customize the Recipe
- Adding toppings: If you’d like to add extra veggies to the dish, my recommendation is to prepare them separately and add them on top, so we preserve the bright color of the dish. My recommended toppings would be portobello mushrooms, roasted smashed broccoli, roasted tomatoes, roasted lentils or even some vegetarian sausages.
- Using green cabbage: There is no reason this wouldn’t work with green cabbage, though I’ve never tried it.
- Add white beans: Replace some of the pasta with white beans for a more protein heavy dish.
- Add lemon zest: If you’d like a more lemon-y punch, toss some lemon zest in alongside the cream and cheese.
- Add fried sage: Fried sage pairs beautifully with smoky flavors. Fry up some sage leaves to use as a garnish here instead of parsley.
Red Cabbage Pasta
- 11 oz (300 g) dried pasta, I used bucatini but spaghetti or linguine work just as well
- 2 red onions, thinly sliced
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 1 small head of cabbage, shredded – see notes
- ¼ cup (60 ml) water, vegetable broth or wine
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lemon juiced
- ¾ cup (180 ml) heavy cream (double cream)
- 7 oz (200 g) smoked cheddar or gouda
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- 2 tsp dried provencal herbs
- First, heat a thin layer of olive oil or butter in a wide, deep frying pan or saute pan. Saute your onions with the sugar over a low heat until they're reduced, soft and getting browned and sticky. This will take about 10 minutes.2 red onions, 2 tsp brown sugar
- Add the cabbage to the pan and mix through. Add the garlic and herbs and cook until just fragrant, then add the lemon juice and cook for another moment until it's absorbed.1 small head of cabbage, 3 cloves garlic, 2 tsp dried provencal herbs, 1 lemon juiced
- Add the water, vegetable broth or wine, and simmer for about 15 – 20 minutes, with the pan partially covered, until the cabbage is soft. Lift the lid and stir frequently. If the cabbage sticks, add another splash of liquid from time to time to de-glaze the pan and keep it moist.1/4 cup water, vegetable broth or wine
- Once your cabbage feels done, start your pasta boiling according to package instructions, then come back to the cabbage pan to make the sauce.11 oz dried pasta
- Over a very low heat, add the cream, mustard and cheese into the pan with the cabbage and mix through until a sauce has formed around the cabbage.3/4 cup heavy cream (double cream), 1 tsp dijon mustard, 7 oz smoked cheddar or gouda
- Once the pasta is cooked, drain (reserving some of the cooking liquid) and add into the pan with the cabbage. Mix through, and add some of the pasta cooking liquid if it needs thinning out.
- Serve immediately with green herbs and/or additional cheese for topping.