Marcella Hazan's Rice & Smothered Cabbage Soup

March 18, 2014

Test Kitchen-Approved

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

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
In This Recipe


Smothered Cabbage, Venetian Style

  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

  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.

More Great Recipes:
Soup|Stew|Grains|Rice|Vegetable|Vinegar|Cabbage|Make Ahead|Slow Cook|Fall|Winter|Gluten-Free

Reviews (101) Questions (2)

101 Reviews

Pat M. January 3, 2019
Does not take the amount of time recipe indicates, do not let the time stop you from making. Did not add all the liquid found it very filling and will make again. Used chicken stock. Creamy wonderful flavor, use good butter!
bellly December 9, 2018
Which beef meat broth recipe did you use? 🤗
Jill F. December 9, 2018
I used the poultry/meat stock recipe from Splendid Table. You want a rich, flavorful stock that can carry the rest of the ingredients.
Angie November 15, 2018
This soup is sneakily delicious. I halved it because I didn't need that many servings and it was worth the investment of time. I made the onions the night before while cooking something else so it didn't seem like it took too long. I had homemade chicken stock on hand and used that.<br />
Annie W. September 13, 2018
I loved how creamy this recipe turns out. I, admittedly, didn't read the directions ahead of time and wasn't exactly prepared for the time commitment needed to turn the cabbage into such a decadent treat, but it was well worth the time. While I didn't love the end result, as a soup; I see full merit in this dish as a side addition to a grain/meat combo. It's doubtful that I will make it again, save for a special occasion accompaniment.
Judy August 23, 2018
The recipe indicates wine vinegar, but the video indicates white wine. Which is correct?
rlsalvati August 25, 2018
You want vinegar - I often use cider vinegar rather than white wine vinegar.
Pookie13815 April 4, 2018
This was an absolutely delicious "soup". My husband is not a great lover of cabbage but had 2 servings. This is definitely going to be a repeat dish!
Michelle March 24, 2018
Wow. Just the smothered cabbage as a side dish is far more delicious than it has any right to be. This is my new favorite vegetable dish. It reminds me of moo shu. I look forward to keeping a batch of this in the fridge to throw an egg or sausage on top for a quick meal.
Lily March 14, 2018
I made this exactly as written and it was delicious. The ingredients and method are super simple, but the flavor is out of this world.
Laurabee March 3, 2018
Love these simple recipes where technique really makes or breaks the results. I made this mostly as written, but probably shaved fifteen minutes off the preliminary cabbage braising time. I did add a half glass of white wine in addition to water during the braise when it looked like it needed a bit of liquid. This recipe yielded amazing depth and complexity of flavor. Smoky, almost. This is a it. I didn’t have beef stock on hand, but I did have homemade turkey stock which worked beautifully.
jacqueline P. February 12, 2018
I found this hugely disappointing. A lot of prep and cooking time resulted in ho-hum mono-flavour.<br />
Laura B. February 8, 2018
My kids were suspicious of this but it is delicious. I will definitely make it again and again. Easy, cheap and so good.
Fran M. February 7, 2018
In the video it looks like 1/4 cup of white wine is added but it’s not listed in the ingredients. The ingredients has wine vinegar. Did anyone else notice that?
Kristen M. February 7, 2018
Apparently not! The recipe here is correct. I'll let our video team know to update the video before they share it again—thank you.
kahtemo April 1, 2018
video stills says white wine...
Kristen M. April 4, 2018
Pesky bugger! The video is updated here now as well—thank you.
GregoryBPortland January 27, 2018
The onions will caramelize but I agree--ten to twelve minutes should do it. And then the garlic is added for a quick 30-45-second warming to just turn a pale gold and release their scent. Anytime you're changing ingredients into a another color, you are caramelizing it.
Susanna January 26, 2018
I’m making the cabbage right now but not sure what to make of the instructions to cook the onion. Cooking it until deep gold seems to imply caramelizing it (which I would probably do with less oil), cooking it for 30 to 40 minutes before adding the (garlic and) cabbage? Am I wrong?
Nicole K. January 26, 2018
Cook the onions until golden, not for 30-40 min, more like 10 min. I use the full amount of oil. I feel like that amount is necessary once you add the cabbage. Hope this helps!
Nicole K. January 20, 2018
Making this today and I have made it countless times. Great simple winter meal. I think that focusing on great quality ingredients is really what makes this a winner because the ingredients list is so short. Homemade broth is practically non negotiable here.
Cathy W. January 3, 2018
I made this soup for the first time today, but it won't be my last. I "smothered" the green cabbage yesterday and finished the soup today....ingredients that pack a lot of flavor. Maybe a bit more onion next time, but it's delicious as is. The beauty of this recipe is the simplicity of these blended flavors. I see why this is a Community Pick. Highly recommend !
MJ January 3, 2018
My NY resolution is to try new recipes. I made this for the first time yesterday and loved it! The only thing I changed was I used veg broth. I used a regular cabbage because that is what I had and it carmelized beautifully. It reminded me of french onion soup.
Bluerroses November 28, 2017
The cabbage was luscious and meltingly tender. Realizing that we were too hungry to wait for soup, I browned italian sausages in a little oil and added them to the cabbage for the last ten minutes of cooking. It was a wonderful combination--can't wait to try again and have the full monte.
Ann H. November 27, 2017
After reading all these comments and seeing the polarity between those who thought it was richly flavored and those who though it was ho-hum bland, I wonder if it was due to (the lack) caramelization of the cabbage which appears to be crucial to this recipe. The sugar content of any ol' head of cabbage can be vastly different depending on the kind of cabbage, what time of year, how long the cabbage has been in storage, humidity content, soil content, etc. etc. I found it interesting that the savoy cabbage was most often attributed to better flavor and color of the dish, but then, the savoy cabbage is a sweeter cabbage rather than the green. I never saw anyone comment about red cabbage, but I suspect the addition of the vinegar will throw off the pH-sensitive pigments of the red cabbage, turning it into something less appealing to the eye. But it's definitely worth a try.
J_Bean February 3, 2018
The red cabbage will turn a dull bluish purple while it cooks and then the addition of vinegar will turn it bright magenta. It's vegetable litmus paper!
Candice March 4, 2018
Ann Hupe - I agree completely! I think a big part of it is the initial deep caramelization of the onion and cooking the garlic until golden. Without this I imagine it must taste like straight-up braised cabbage - definitely one note. It's about adding all these layers of ingredients and then coaxing them to slowly reveal their best depth of flavor that make the final result so complex and amazing!
PatrickP October 26, 2017
Pressure cooker update. I’d need to do a side by side comparison, but yes, it works. I added 150 ml of water and cooked for 25 mins (obviously with temp turned down to minimum but enough to maintain pressure), shaking the pan 2 or 3 times during and cooled it using the natural release method, Next time, I’ll try with 100ml as there was zero sign of burning.