My favourite winter side dish: Vegetables Italian Style

London, 20th November 2012 – I like to serve a vegetable side dish to compliment my family’s everyday meal. Cooked green vegetables are my favourite winter side dish.

In Italy extra virgin olive oil is the most used ingredient in vegetable dressings. I often give my olive oil dressing a bit of extra character by adding lemon juice or by stir frying it with garlic and chilli. To prepare these dishes you can use the green vegetables that you prefer; I used the vegetables that, in this period, are growing in my allotment: spinach, brussels sprouts and cavolo nero (also known as black cabbage or dinosaur kale).

In Italy these side dishes are often served during seasonal festivities, and as the theme of No Croutons Required November is ‘vegetarian soups or salads to grace your holiday table’, I’m entering the recipe into this monthly food blogging event hosted by Lisa’s Kitchen (November’s host) and Tinned Tomatoes.

I also submit this recipe ‘made from scratch using fresh ingredient’s into Made with Love Mondays hosted by Javelin Warrior over at Cookin w/ Luv.



(Verdure cotte condite con l’olio)



  • 350 g spinach
  • 160 g cavolo nero (black cabbage)
  • 70 g brussels sprouts
  • sea salt

spicy sauce

  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 bird eye chilli, sliced (I do not remove the seeds)

lemony dressing

  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ tsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • Parsley, roughly chopped (optional)


Prepare the vegetable

Wash the vegetables.

Slice the cavolo nero and spinach leaves in half; remove the brussels sprouts tail and pull off the individual leaves.

Vegetables in spicy sauce

Bring a sauce pan of slightly salted water to the boil.

Add the cavolo nero and the brussels sprouts; simmer for 8 – 10 minutes until the cavolo nero is cooked (undercooked cavolo nero is quite chewy!). Drain the water out of the pan and set the vegetables aside.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the garlic and chilli. Fry for 3 minutes over a low-medium heat until the garlic is golden brown. Add half of the raw spinach and stir fry for 1 minutes.

Then add half of the boiled vegetable mix (cavolo nero and brussels sprouts); gently mix so all vegetables are covered in the spicy, garlicky sauce and cook for another 2 minutes.

Vegetables in lemony dressing

Bring a sauce pan of slightly salted water to the boil.

Add the remaining raw spinach and simmer for 3 minutes Drain the water out of the pan and set the vegetables aside.

In a large bowl add the oil, lemon and salt and mix until smooth, using a balloon whisk; sprinkle with fresh parsley (if used).

Add the boiled spinach and the remaining cavolo nero and brussel sprouts mix to the bowl just before serving (lemon juice turns the green colour to olive brown!)


Click the picture for a printable version of Vegetables Italian Style recipe!




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52 Responses to My favourite winter side dish: Vegetables Italian Style

  1. Pingback: Recipe ideas for enjoying Brussels sprouts

  2. Choclette says:

    I do like my greens Rita and I really like your way of doing them. We do sometimes stir-fry kale in olive oil, chilli and garlic which is very similar to how you do yours, but I’ve never added a lemon dressing. Your photographs make me wish I had a big bowl of your greens in front of me now, they looks so green and healthy and delicious.

    • Rita says:

      I love very simple dressings, lemon and oil is a great combination. You can change the amount of lemon and prepare a dressing suitable for your personal taste!

  3. Karen says:

    I try to have a green vegetable each evening and these are two of my favorite ways of preparing them.

  4. petra08 says:

    Hi Rita

    it looks amazing! I love greens and have indeed added the lemon juice too soon many times! Will keep it in mind! I thought we had planted curly kale but it was cavolo nero instead but just as delicious!

  5. These vegetables are a perfect side my friend, I have never been more tempted to eat greens 😀

    Choc Chip Uru

    • Rita says:

      Thank you Uru! I’m glad to hear that a young lady, like you, likes this simple vegetable recipe (when I was 17 I was not so keen on eating vegetables!!)

  6. Hi Rita,
    What a delicious way to serve greens. Simple, light and so flavorful!

  7. This sounds fantastic! I have some kale at home that I would love to try this with/

  8. Liz says:

    Rita, what a delicious veggie preparation! I love the idea of cooked greens with a lemony dressing…mmmmmmmm.

  9. cakewhiz says:

    your recipes always leave my mouth watering…lol! each recipe is so authentically italian and flavorsome…just awesome! 🙂

  10. Che bello il tuo orto, almeno sei sicura di mangiare verdura fresca e genuina! Buonissima la verdura con il condimento piccante all’olio d’oliva, oltre ad essere gustosa fa bene alla salute! Ciao

  11. Slice says:

    These vegetables look delicious Rita. My current favourite is broccoli with extra virgin olive oil and anchovies or anchovy paste but I love cavolo nero and will be giving this dressing a try. Thanks for another great recipe!

    • Rita says:

      I love broccoli combined with anchovy too!! I usually stir fried them adding also garlic and chilli…great as a side dish or pasta sauce. Yummy!! We have very similar taste foodwise.

  12. helene dsouza says:

    I am all the way with you, I like my olive oil with a twist such as you mentioned, garlic, lemon chilli. In fact its about time that I keep those piri piri chillis from here in some olive oil, my husband loves that as a dressing! I have to admit though, that I am not much of a cooked green vegetable fan… It always reminds me of Spinach and that time when my mum forced me to eat it. Recently I fell in love with sorrel though. Thats a bit acidic so I guess I need to combine greens with vinegar or lemon. Thanks for sharing Rita!

    • Rita says:

      These pushy parents!!! LOL I also expect my kids to eat some green vegetables…I let my VERY FUSSY EATER little boy (3 years old) to help cooking these vegetables and he accepted to eat TWO SPINACH LEAVES!! I asked ‘Do you like it?’ and he answered ‘not so much, Mamma’. Sorrel is great I love green stuff with a strong flavour!

  13. Pingback: Best of the Foodie Blogs: Ten at Ten (46) | Foodies 100

  14. Tandy says:

    you get such an amazing array of green vegetables there Rita 🙂

  15. Roz says:

    I am so glad that you shared this delightful recipe for vegetables prepared more “Italian-style”. I love to add olive oil, garlic and chilis to my vegetables too and now have learned what more I can do with vegetables from your lovely blog, Rita!

    Grazie e’ baci,

  16. Patty says:

    Cara Rita, sono ammirata per il semplice fatto che tu sia riuscita a far crescere il cavolo nero. E’ una verdura che amo da buona toscana, e per me è il nobile decaduto delle crucifere. Da’ un sapore meraviglioso a zuppe, ripieni di pasta e anche sotto forma di pesto. L’hai mai fatto? Fantastico. E ti confermo che la tua versione di verdure così semplicemente scottate e condite con ottimo olio extravergine, magari nuovo nuovo, è la mia preferita in assoluto.
    Un grande abbraccio (e chissà, magari un giorno potrò permettermi anche io un orticello piccolo piccolo). Pat

    • Rita says:

      Cara Patty con un commento mi hai dato tante idee per preparare il cavolo nero! Non conosco il pesto di cavolo nero, ne il ripieno di cavolo nero per la pasta!! Ora che seguo tanti bellissimi blogs Italiani spero di trovare tante ottime ricette, NUOVE E TRADIZIONALI!! Per quanto riguardo l’olio extra vergine d’oliva la storia e’ lunga: ovviamente quello nuovo, magari preparato in casa con amore e’ il mio preferito e a volte sono fortunata e ricevo in regalo una BOTTIGLIA DI OLIO che conservo e uso SOLO per condire verdure cotte e insalate…

  17. Ahh I am loving this as a grower of spinach and rainbow chard this is something I love to make myself, more with the spicy sauce but actually your lemon sauce would be wonderful too. I am hoping our cavolo nero & sprouts grow and if they do they will be cooked in this way too!

    • Rita says:

      Oh RAINBOW CHARD!! As I have already written to Karen I would like to grow rainbow chard, I love their taste and colours. Good luck with the cavolo nero and sprouts….it is a constant battle with slugs and birds (like you I DO NOT USE pesticides only a NET!!)

  18. My mouth is watering at looking at these vegetables.
    Homegrown vegetables done this way are heaven. Full of taste and goodness. Bellissimo post Rita! Baci.

  19. Oh yes Rita, this is just my kind of food, I adore all sorts if chard, spinach and greens…….and your vegetables Italian style look fabulous! Beautiful photos too…..Karen

    • Rita says:

      I agree Karen, green vegetables are great; I am a chard fan too: I’m planning to grow some BEAUTIFUL rainbow chard in my allotment next year!!

  20. This looks really fresh Rita. As a child I never liked brussel sprouts but they’ve grown on me over the years, it does mean though that I’m always on the look out for new ways to cook them. I really like the look of this, I’ll be giving it a go.

    • Rita says:

      Dear Sian, since I moved to the UK I started to eat brussels sprouts. Here in the UK I discovered so many interesting way to cook this healthy winter vegetable…And I love it (maybe very soon I will post another BRUSSELS SPROUTS recipe!!).

  21. Giovanna says:

    Adoro le verdure invernali, lessate o saltate velocemente in padella.
    I tuoi condimenti sono deliziosi, mi piacciono tanto entrambi.
    Un bacio

    • Rita says:

      Grazie Giovanna! E’bello gustare le verdure in un modo semplice. Anche a me piace d’inverno avere la pentola dell’acqua che bolle in cucina ed appanna i vetri freddi mentre l’odore delle verdure si diffonde in tutte le stanze (mi sento un po’ come te nella tua cucina!!).

  22. Everything are from your own garden. That’s just exciting!

  23. bellissime queste verdurine agliose, proprio come piacciono a me. ma le bietole (le mie preferite) si trovano a Londra? ps: a primavera passo dalle tue parti per lavoro, se vuoi ti porto un po’ del mio lievito magico, cosi’ vediamo se e’ magico davvero!

    • Rita says:

      Le bietole crescono a Londra, ma spesso si trovano nei negozi (be’ almeno no questi vicino a me!). Ho notato piante bellissime piene di foglie verdi e croccanti negli orti dei vicini…per cui il prossimo anno trovo i semi e le coltivero’ anch’io (condite olio e limone??).
      Se vieni a Londra e se hai tempo ci dobbiamo incotrare e scambiarci questa POZIONE MAGICA (se qualcun’altro legge il commento, sto parlando diu un lievito!!), ti mandero’ un email con il mio indirizzo e contatto telefonico. Ciao

  24. Claudia says:

    mamma miaaaa io anche le amo le verdure!! Ma davvero ti cresce il cavolino di Bruxelles? che fortuna.. io lo stra-amo! baci e buona giornata 🙂

    • Rita says:

      Cara Claudia sapessi che fatica farlo diventare una pianta grande!! Purtroppo anche gli uccelli e le lumache amano i cavolini per cui e’ una BATTAGLIA continua! Ma alla fine ho vinto IO!

  25. Jacqueline @How to be a Gourmand says:

    I’m sure I would love this Rita. It’s true, you do need a dressing of sorts to enhance the flavour of vegetables, whether it be lemon and olive oil, or garlic and chilli. Pleased to see you like Brussels Sprouts too 🙂

    • Rita says:

      Thank you Jacqueline! I learned to love Brussels Sprouts here in London. My Mum’s quick veggies dressing: EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL AND SALT!

  26. There is a lot of stir frying of vegetables in chinese cooking, and we normally put light soya sauce or oyster sauce. I have never thought of tossing it with olive oil and lemon. That is healthy and refreshing!

  27. This looks very tempting, Rita – I have to admit, I’ve never cared much for cooked greens ever since my parents tried to feed me them as a child 😉 But I’m always intrigued how others prepare them and the spicy sauce is so tasty sounding… Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Rita says:

      Thank you Javelin! Cooked greens are very popular in Italy and I love them since I was a child! I don’t put so much pressure to eat veggies on my children, but it is not easy.

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