Kohlrabi are called cavoli in Sicily (in Italy cavoli are cauliflowers, cavolo verza is a cabbage).
Just to confuse things, Sicilians call cauliflowers broccoli.
As well as the purple coloured roots there are light green ones; the root is always sold complete with the leaves and the whole plant is eaten.
Kohlrabi can be eaten as a vegetable – boiled with a dressing of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice, but mostly they are cooked with pasta.
The kohlrabi I am able to buy at the Queen Victoria Market are always much bigger than the ones in the photos (from market in Syracuse) but unfortunately only one stall sells them complete with the leaves. Because the plant is picked when large, the leaves are not as tender.
Still, it is better than nothing, and the broth- like pasta dish I make with them tastes rather good, although I could never say that it is as tasty as the one my relatives in Ragusa make. For a start, they make it with home made pasta (called causunedda) and they also put in strips of cutini (cotenne in Italian, pork skin in English) to flavour the vegetable broth. The cutini (from fresh pork) are common in Sicilian cooking especially in Ragusa. They are eaten stuffed, rolled and braised as a secondo (main course), but mainly added to soups (especially pulses) and always as an ingredient to make a strong sugo to dress pasta or the ravioli di ricotta (a local specialty from the south eastern part of Sicily).
The recipe could not be simpler. In the feature photo above and below is Franca, my cousin in Ragusa and she is preparing causunnedda – Sicilian homemade short pasta.
Because I do not make my own causunnedda, I buy gnocchetti shaped pasta or pasta or casareccia.
Clean the greens and separate them into manageable pieces; peel the kohlrabi root and cut into bite sized pieces.
Boil them in salted water (add strips of fresh pork rind if you wish). The water will be used as the broth to cook the pasta so calculate the amount of liquid carefully. When the vegetables are soft, drain them, but save the water and the rind. Cook the pasta in the water. Return the vegetable to the water and the pasta. Add chopped chilli or chilli flakes. Now for one of the most important parts: dribble with your finest extra virgin olive oil and serve. It should resemble a wet pasta.
Grated pecorino is placed on the table as an option – I prefer it without. I like the fresh taste of the vegetables and the oil.
The Ragusani also cook the causunnedda with dried beans (in winter). The causunedda are also cooked in the same way using fresh borlotti beans (when in season) and in spring with fresh broad beans. These are cooked without the kohlrabi (which is an autumn – winter vegetable). It is amazing how something so simple can taste so good.