Marcella Hazan's Rice and Smothered Cabbage Soup

By • March 18, 2014 • 40 Comments

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Author Notes: A technique for bringing out the hidden beauty in cabbage -- and a soupy, risotto-ish cure for the end-of-winter blues. Adapted very slightly from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (Knopf, 1992).Genius Recipes

Serves 4 to 6 people

Smothered Cabbage, Venetian Style

  • 2 pounds green, red, or Savoy cabbage
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • Salt
  • Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
  • 1 tablespoon wine vinegar, white or red
  1. Detach and discard the first few outer leaves of the cabbage. The remaining head of leaves must be shredded very fine. If you are going to do it by hand, cut the leaves into fine shreds, slicing them off the whole head. Turn the head after you have sliced a section of it until gradually you expose the entire core, which must be discarded. If you want to use the food processor, cut the leaves off from the core in sections, discard the core and process the leaves through a shredding attachment.
  2. Put the onion and olive oil into a large sauté pan, and turn the heat on to medium. Cook and stir the onion until it becomes colored a deep gold, then add the garlic. When you have cooked the garlic until it becomes colored a very pale gold, add the shredded cabbage. Turn the cabbage over 2 or 3 times to coat it well, and cook it until it is wilted.
  3. Add salt, pepper, and the vinegar. Turn the cabbage over once completely, lower the heat to minimum, and cover the pan tightly. Cook for at least 1 1/2 hours, or until it is very tender, turning it from time to time. If while it is cooking, the liquid in the pan should become insufficient, add 2 tablespoons water as needed. When done, taste and correct for salt and pepper. Allow it to settle a few minutes off heat before serving. Note: The smothered cabbage can be prepared 2 or 3 days ahead of the soup, or served as a side dish from here. It also freezes well.

Rice and Smothered Cabbage Soup

  • The Smothered Cabbage, from above
  • 3 cups homemade meat broth (we used beef here, but chicken is also good), or 1 cup canned beef broth, diluted with 2 cups water
  • 2/3 cup rice, preferably Italian Arborio rice
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
  • Salt
  • Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
  1. Put the cabbage and broth into a soup pot, and turn on the heat to medium.
  2. When the broth comes to a boil, add the rice. Cook uncovered, adjusting the heat so that the soup bubbles at a slow, but steady boil, stirring from time to time until the rice is done. It must be tender, but firm to the bite, and should take around 20 minutes. If while the rice is cooking, you find the soup becoming too thick, add a ladelful of homemade broth. If you are not using homemade broth, just add water. Remember that when finished, the soup should be rather dense, but there should still be some liquid.
  3. When the rice is done, before turning off the heat, swirl in the butter and the grated Parmesan, stirring thoroughly. Taste and correct for salt, and add a few grindings of black pepper. Ladle the soup into individual bowls, and allow it to settle just a few minutes before serving. Serve with more grated Parmesan.
Jump to Comments (40)

Topics: Soup

Comments (40) Questions (0)


8 days ago Melissa

This is delicious! One of the best new soups that I have tried this season. Definately on the rotation! Thanks.


about 1 month ago Mark X

We made this with the addition of shredded beef short ribs--fantastic results!:


about 1 month ago Double Helping

Just made this. Quite possibly one of the best soups ever. Perfect for a New England blizzard!


4 months ago Randi

I've never made it beyond the cabbage stage of this recipe. It is so delicious as is, and is the most requested veggie side dish in my home. Usually by the 12-year-old foodie. Some day I will make the whole soup.


4 months ago Marian Bull

Wow! This is so excellent! All I had was napa cabbage and farro (sorry, Marcella!) -- but it worked perfectly. I am so happy to have finally made this and now want to shout its existence from the rooftop. (Oh! And it's great with homemade vegetable broth.)


8 months ago Transcendancing

I cooked this last night and loved it, simple flavours that burst with deliciousness and great as Winter comfort food.


11 months ago SeeSee

This was fantastic, I used homemade chicken broth. After the rice cooked, I could have added more broth but enjoyed it as risotto. Marcella knows what she's doing... Thank you!


12 months ago capers

Try the smothered cabbage with a dollop of plain (full-fat!) yogurt on bow-tie noodles (a Moosewood inspiration). The definition of comfort food!


12 months ago mdinmn

Made this for dinner tonight... it was delicious.. but, sigh, I gotta say it was actually a little too rich for my taste... I think I'll stop at the smothered cabbage next time,and maybe cut back a little on the olive oil.. maybe serve it with a white bordeaux as foil for the richness..


12 months ago Petite fee

p.s. amamzing with vegie broth.


8 months ago Stacy

Thanks for the heads up! I always have veggie broth around and it's nice when someone has already tested it =)


12 months ago Petite fee

I didn't know cabbage could be so enticing! awesome flavor! I added chili flakes for a bit kick.
Thanks for sharing.


12 months ago Anna Wisner

Just finished my second bowl. for such a simple recipe, this yielded up an amazing amount of flavor. I substituted pearled farro for the rice, and added some micro arugula for subtle flavor. Excellent!


12 months ago GregoryBPortland

The day after I made this soup, I wanted to have the leftovers for lunch. The broth had been almost wholly absorbed into the rice. It was fine. I simply reheated it and it made a substantial lunch for me. It still tasted great.


12 months ago Glenn

I made this last weekend, incredible - thank you. Next time it doesn't make it all the way to soup, I tasted it just before the soup step and was torn if I should go further, oh well, just another excuse to make it again, cheers


12 months ago DAVILCHICK

We've made this twice now and never made it to the soup!! Well third time's the charm, I guess.


12 months ago scrambled eggs

Comforting, hearty fare. I added a quart of chicken stock but in no way does it turn out "soup". The next day I added some white beans to the mix.


12 months ago DAVILCHICK

I made this the other night and stopped before the soup part. We just had it as a side dish but let me tell you - i could have eaten the entire thing as a main course. Thank you for this! So simple. So yum. Love Marcella!!!


12 months ago Anne Margaret Shuham

Has anyone made this with red cabbage?


about 1 year ago je mange

Made this the other night and I thought it was great. I added preserved lemon to it on account of BFs insistence, but he really wanted to add fennel seed. I really wanted to keep it simple. Probably would have been just as good with the fennel though. Anyone add any other flavors?


about 1 year ago SunnyIowa

Made this for dinner and it's fabulous. Savory deliciousness. I used savoy cabbage and I think that was a good call - it seemed to caramelize better than regular green or red (which sometimes can get mushy). Arborio rice is a must, although I did cut back on the olive oil. I ended up adding about 1.5 cups extra water while the rice cooked. I'll definitely make this again - the savory, robust flavors are amazing!


about 1 year ago KFS

Thank you for your comments GregoryB, I agree with your notion that recipes are templates, this one just didn't fit for me, however I am glad I tried it