Cabbage is the canned good of the vegetable world. A head of cabbage will not only outlast almost any other perishable in your fridge, but it is incredibly affordable and offers abundant volume. Depending on how it’s cooked or cut, it can yield all kinds of different flavors, from crisp and peppery in coleslaw to beautifully caramelized, as in this dish.
1. Boil a large pot of water. Generously salt the water and cook the pasta for 2 minutes shy of the package instructions. Test for doneness and drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.
2. Meanwhile, heat a large sauté pan over high heat. Swirl in the oil. When it shimmers, add the onions, garlic, bacon, and red pepper flakes and sauté until the onions soften and the bacon fat is slightly rendered, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cabbage, currants, and lemon zest and cook until the cabbage is slightly caramelized and barely tender, about 6 minutes.
3. Add the vinegar, stirring to deglaze the pan. Add the reserved pasta water, milk, and cheese, stirring to melt the cheese. Add the penne to the pan. Remove from the heat, squeeze the lemon half over the pasta, and toss to combine. Serve immediately with extra cheese.
Excerpted from Mad Hungry Family by Lucinda Scala Quinn (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2016. Photographs by Jonathan Lovekin.