Make Ahead

Marcella Hazan's Rice & Smothered Cabbage Soup

March 18, 2014
4 Stars
Photo by Mark Weinberg
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

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Marcella Hazan's Rice & Smothered Cabbage Soup
  • 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
  1. Smothered Cabbage, Venetian Style
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  1. Rice and Smothered Cabbage Soup
  2. Put the cabbage and broth into a soup pot, and turn on the heat to medium.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Kim Watt
    Kim Watt
  • Kellia Brinson
    Kellia Brinson
  • Irene Carlyle
    Irene Carlyle
  • Taylor Stanton
    Taylor Stanton
  • Julieek
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

123 Reviews

Kim W. February 7, 2022
Perfect. I used regular green cabbage and added half a lemons worth of juice at the end per another recommendation on another recipe site that I would quote if I could find it…definitely use the Parmesan rinds if you have them and be generous with the salt and pepper during the cabbage braising helps build complexity.
Kellia B. November 12, 2021
Delicious! It’s amazing how simple yet flavorful this soup is. Definitely going in the regular cold weather soup rotation.
Melissa August 15, 2020
I've made this many times over the years for myself; and for friends and family; everyone loves it. It's so simple, yet comforting, and complex and tastes even better the next day. I feel like the people who found it bland may not have seasoned it appropriately.
Irene C. June 17, 2020
OMG!! What a wonderful soup! I have made the smothered cabbage before and had 1 1/2 C frozen so decided to try the soup. After defrosting i added 2 C water with better than boullion chicken paste(had no homemade stock on hand) and long grain jasimine rice since that's all i had. (and some grated parma) HEAVENLY!! so comforting and flavorful!!! ALSO-RE: the Smothered Cabbage; it only takes an hour or less rather than the 1 1/2 hr in the recipe.
Tam May 26, 2020
Wow it's a lot easier than I thought. I chopped all by hand and it was quick. I added about another cup of water in the soup, my risotto was old, so maybe tougher and took a little longer to cook. So yummy. I could see a thick slice of cheezy toast topping on this soup. Thank you.
rlsalvati April 26, 2020
Smothered cabbage is my favorite thing to do with cabbage, I usually stop at that point and forego the soup. If you have a red cabbage, be sure to turn off the heat as soon as the cabbage is ready or you risk losing the color. Smothered cabbage is a great main dish with some grated parmesan or, if you want a meat, with pork roast.
Taylor S. April 10, 2020
I have made this many, many times over the past 6 or so years and it never disappoints!! So tender and comforting with numerous layers of flavor built in.
Christy March 12, 2020
a go-to soup recipe, freezes well, comforting and hearty
Julieek March 3, 2020
This is outstanding! I made it with a high quality carton of beef broth - a whole quart - and some additional water. I wanted more of a soup and less of a risotto. I can't imagine only using a can of broth and diluting it. I added the additional liquid gradually as though I were making risotto. This kind of reminded me of French onion soup with cabbage! I added a bit more red wine vinegar, as well.
Jackie F. February 13, 2020
After following the recipe, I am quite astonished that this dish gets so many good reviews. I found it to be truly unremarkable. If you have any doubts, and you should if you've read many of the reviews, don't prepare this unless you don't mind the idea that after 2 hours you may be greatly disappointed and wished you'd prepared the cabbage in some other way. At least it isn't an expensive loss. But hey- many people love it - so maybe you'll be in that camp. The upside for me is I know now it's unlikely I will ever need to cook cabbage for that length of time again!
Angela C. December 29, 2021
I too was disappointed. I made it because I love cabbage and rice but I don't taste the depth of flavor i was expecting. Maybe it'll be better tomorrow?
bellly January 15, 2020
This was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever cooked. Very unexpected. So simple, so good and savory.

(I splurged on some Kettle and Fire beef broth, and used Irish butter and jasmine rice. I used half of an onion which ended up being more than half of a cup, and then used about a TBS and a half of garlic. Mine ended up having more of the consistency of a rice casserole since I didn’t add more liquid.)
bellly January 15, 2020
Oh and I used Manchego cheese instead of Parmesan!
Danielle November 29, 2019
I made this vegan and it came out great!
ChristinaJean October 29, 2019
I have loved this recipe for years, and can't imagine why it doesn't have a higher rating on here. I've made it with and without the rice, with and without chicken thighs, with and without beans, and all the variations I've tried yield a tasty, low-cost, and pretty easy meal.
Terri S. April 29, 2019
Wow. I REALLY wanted to like this, but I am completely underwhelmed. I spent several hours this morning preparing it exactly according to the recipe (I used beef stock from a carton and red wine vinegar). I'm so disappointed. I actually dumped the bowl I had served up (to myself) back into the pot after a couple bites, then started adding anything I could grab to salvage it (spices: paprika, chipotle, coriander, dill, bay), plus two cans of diced tomatoes and a ton of leftover shredded cuban pork. It is simmering away and I hope it will be more palatable. I sincerely have no idea how this recipe got such rave reviews--it was completely bland, and frankly, I could not even eat a bowl of it. The cabbage and onions had definitely caramelized. I used good butter and organic stock. I just don't know what to say...
MoMoWack August 4, 2019
It could possibly be the beef stock. Beef stock is not chicken stock.
Jojo February 20, 2019
I have to admit that i don't think I've ever cooked a less photo worthy dish. I was sceptical chopping the cabbage, sceptical after an hour and 30 minutes of sauteeing and it still looking meh (I actually ended up throwing it in the crock pot to finish because i had to go to bed and i figured it couldn't possibly get worse). The following day i made the soup, still sceptical plating it - right up until the point i lifted that first delicious morsel up to my mouth. As my tastebuds exploded into the most beautiful gastronomic harmony and i finally realized what all the fuss was about. I loved this and will definitely make again!
SeeSee February 11, 2019
Hi, I’ve been loving this recipe for a while...lately, I’ve been trying to be vegan and I made it with veggie broth and it still tastes delicious. I also added already cooked Rancho Gordo Marcella beans to make a very complete meal. (Any white bean would do)
Noreen F. February 11, 2019
Made this Friday night and it was so, so good. Definitely not very photogenic, though! The leftovers are more like risotto than soup, as the rice had absorbed pretty much all the stock. I had some of the leftovers on Sunday morning with a fried egg on top, which was delicious, too!
Anne J. February 7, 2019
Yummy! Used a red cabbage and beef broth to make the soup, so the soup turned out dark dark and beefy. And some kielbasa on the side. A keeper.
Reed K. January 23, 2019
Made this yesterday (I've had the recipe saved for ages) and it is absolutely delicious! I agree that the smothered cabbage is pretty fantastic on its own (next time I'll double the recipe) but the soup is extra special. Even my husband, who claims to not like soup, really like it. I served it with sliced sausage on top.
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!