This is essentially a take on aglio e olio that works better in the winter. It also means you get to eat lots of happy crinkly cabbage, which in this case is savoy from the farmer's market. Incidentally, I recommend that you don't try to go to the Union Square farmer's market the day before thanksgiving. Just don't. However, if you go you can get a savoy cabbage for a dollar, so it all works out.
Savoy cabbage is particularly great in this since its leaves have all kinds of pockets and crevices. This means that all the bits of garlic and shallot and red pepper will not sink to the bottom of your plate of pasta, but instead get caught up in the greens to produce little bursts of tastiness while you're eating.
Also, you get to eat cabbage, and cabbage is awesome. Go winter vegetables!
Spicy pasta with savoy cabbage
red pepper flakes
Peel and mince several cloves of garlic and a shallot; soften them slowly in olive oil. Season with a little cayenne and a little more red pepper flakes, plus maybe a little oregano for greenness. While the garlic and shallot are cooking, wash, devein, and chop several leaves of cabbage. I used three leaves for just me.
Cook the pasta in lots of boiling water. As soon as you put the pasta on, toss the cabbage pieces into the garlic pan. Stir to get the oil distributed, adding a little more if necessary. Then cook the greens down. I like to do this by steaming, after a few minutes of initial garlic-oil absorption, since cabbage is a large sturdy winter green and has a cooking time on par with broccoli. To steam, throw a couple splashes of water into the pan, then clap on the lid. Give it about five minutes for the cabbage to cook through. When the leaves are tender but not totally wilted, salt a little and pepper a lot. Done.
Drain your pasta. I used linguine, since we had linguine, but something like rotelle would also be good. Chunky pastas serve the same purpose as the savoy leaves: they're ridgy and bumpy and let tasty bits cling easily. The linguine worked out fine, though.
Throw the pasta into the pan of cabbage with maybe a little dab more olive oil, toss, and eat.
You can go a couple ways with garnish for this. I had the end of a piece of romano cheese, so I used that. You could also toast some roughly chopped walnuts or pine nuts in a frying pan for a couple minutes, then use those. Nuts and cabbage are totally best friends.
Other options: First, other sturdy winter greens would work in place of the savoy, so if you have some mustard greens lying around, go ahead and use them.
If you want dinner with more substance, some kind of sliced/crumbled sausage, soy bits, or tempeh would be advisable. Crumbles would be best, since the bits will then lodge in the leaves just like all the other delicious business. I'd add them at the beginning, to cook with the garlic.
You could also use some crumbles of those vegan seitan sausages that everybody and their mother seems to be making. That would be an ideal match, especially if your sausages are already garlicky or hot peppery. A fennel sausage would be really great too. Or you could just add a bunch of fennel seeds with the garlic and etc, for that extra dimension of potential goodness. That sounds awesome, but I don't have any fennel seeds! Stupid incompletely rebuilt yet spice cabinet!