Trenne Pasta with Napa Cabbage and Chorizo (Pasta Con Verza Recipe)

Trenne Pasta with Napa Cabbage and Chorizo (Pasta Con Verza Recipe) Recipe

Chorizo, cabbage and sage may not be an obvious combination, but they work incredibly well together. The vegetarian chorizo, or "soyrizo", adds a ton of spice and the Vitamin A-packed Napa cabbage imparts a subtle sweetness to any meal.

I just made a batch of vegetarian chorizo today, which is what inspired me to make this dish. There are many good reasons for making your own, but the main reason is that it's much healthier (no cholesterol) than the meat version, without sacrificing flavor.

I paired the chorizo and cabbage mixture with triangle-shaped trenne pasta because it's much more fun for children than "boring" penne pasta. It's also a great way to get fussy kids to eat their cabbage. For all those people out there who think that healthy has to be tasteless, you need to try this dish. It's bursting with flavor without packing on the calories.


Yields: 8 servings

1 (16-ounce) package trenne pasta (I used tri-color pasta)
2 teaspoons salt
½ Napa cabbage (about 1 pound total), shredded
8 ounces homemade soy chorizo (see tips)
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 baby leeks, light green parts only
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 Yukon Gold potato, peeled, boiled, diced (about 1/2 to 3/4 cup)
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
3 fresh sage leaves
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
½ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley leaves, for garnish


How to prep leeks:

Cut about 3 inches off of the long dark green top part of the leek. It's very fibrous and not as tender. You can save it for a vegetable stock. Remove a layer or two if the leaves are wilted.

Fill a large bowl of water and the leeks. Try to open up the leaves and remove all the sand and dirt. Wash the leeks again under cold running water, as there might still be more sand.

Pat dry using a kitchen towel and slice the leeks into rings.

Cooking trenne pasta: Bring about 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add the pasta, bring back to a boil and immediately lower the heat to a gentle boil. This way the pasta will cook evenly all the way through. Cook the pasta for about 12 minutes total. Salt the water half-way through the cooking process (it will bring out the natural flavor of the pasta and it will be more tender) and keep stirring every now and then so the pasta doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot. It may take longer than the cooking time that's written on the box. When the pasta is cooked (cooked inside and out but still in shape and firm), reserve about 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup of pasta water and drain the pasta (do NOT rinse). Transfer to a large flat platter. You can also skip this step and transfer the pasta directly to the sauté pan.

Cooking the sage leaves and leeks: Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pan or a large wok. Fry the sage leaves. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. Finely chop and set aside. Add the leeks to the oil and sauté over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent the leeks from burning. Transfer to a platter. 

For the soy chorizo and Napa Cabbage:

I used the quenelle method to form the chorizo. Using 2 tablespoons, gather one portion of the chorizo in one spoon. Scrape the loose mixture from the sides using the other spoon. Repeat between the 2 spoons until the mound is tightly packed. Set aside on a platter.

In the same pan, there should still be oil from the leeks (add more if necessary). Add the garlic and cook until slightly golden. Add the chorizo quenelles to the pan and cook until each piece is nicely browned. Transfer into a platter. Add more olive oil. Add the potato and nutmeg. Cook for about 2 minutes until slightly golden and add the cabbage. Add about 2-3 tablespoons of reserved pasta water. Toss frequently and cook for about 4 minutes over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a platter. 

Assembly time: In the same pan, heat the rest of the oil. Add the leeks and trenne pasta. Stir until well incorporated. Add about ¼ cup of pasta water. Toss the pasta for about 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. If the pasta starts sticking to the bottom, add more pasta water. Add the tomato paste, tomato sauce and Tabasco sauce. Toss well for about 2 minutes. Add the soy chorizo and cabbage. Turn off the heat. Add 1 tablespoon of parsley. Adjust seasoning. Gently stir the trenne pasta without mashing the chorizo too much. Cover and let stand until you're ready to serve.

Garnish with more parsley and sprinkle with the chopped fried sage leaves (if you like). Serve warm.

Bon appétit!


I buy this particular cabbage in a Korean store.

When I cook with leeks, I always save the white part for soups or simply steam them and serve as a salad (leek vinaigrette) and cook the light green and tender fibrous part as I would onions.

If you can't find trenne pasta, you can always use other pasta tubes such as penne or ziti pasta (or  any other pasta shapes you prefer).

Vegetarian chorizo has a similar texture to ground beef. The main ingredients are TVP (textured vegetable protein), tofu and spices. Soy chorizo is also available in regular stores such as Safeway and Trader Joe's. You can also check out more dishes using soy chorizo.

TVP Textured Vegetable Protein

You could always sauté some ground beef or real chorizo on the side and add it to the pasta dish if you're a meat lover like me. When I serve this dish for a dinner party, I make it with ground chorizo meat and top the pasta with pan-seared scallops to make the dish ultra fancy.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on April 4, 2010.


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