Looking for an easy-to-make, rib-sticking soup to warm you from the inside-out? This super cozy rendition brimming with cabbage, Italian sausage, and orzo is just the ticket. It’s layered with umami from the bottom-up—from aromatics sautéed in rendered sausage fat, to a rich, savory broth made from caramelized tomato paste, parmesan rinds, and chicken stock, to even more parmesan that's grated over the soup before serving. In under 30 minutes, you’ll have a completely comforting, soul-satisfying meal. Leftovers, should you have any, make for swell lunches and dinners throughout the week.
A few notes: I usually reach for tender, frilly-edged Napa or savoy cabbage when making this soup. If using regular green cabbage, simmer it for about 10 minutes before adding the orzo in Step 3 since it’ll take a little longer to soften. Change up the types of sausage, too—virtually any type of uncooked pork, chicken, or turkey sausage will work nicely. The same flexibility extends to the orzo: reach for other small pasta shapes, such as ditalini or mini farfalle, or rice, such as Arborio or basmati. If using rice, increase the simmering time in Step 3 by about 10 minutes before adding the sausage.
4 to 6
extra-virgin olive oil
Italian sausage (mild or spicy), bulk or with casings removed
yellow onion, finely chopped
kosher salt, plus more to taste
freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
garlic cloves, finely chopped
large Napa or Savoy cabbage (about 2 pounds), trimmed, quartered, and thinly sliced
chicken stock, homemade or low-sodium store-bought
Heat olive oil in a large thick-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add sausage in a single layer and brown, breaking it into bite-sized pieces and stirring occasionally, until it is just cooked through and no longer pink. Remove with a slotted spoon, leaving the rendered fat in the pot.
Add the onion and several big pinches of kosher salt and black pepper. Saute for about 4 minutes, then add the garlic and saute for another 1 minute. Lower the heat, and add the tomato paste and continue cooking, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pot, until it caramelizes and starts to change in color from bright to brick red, about 3 minutes. (Don't rush this step; the caramelized paste adds depth and complexity to the soup.)
Add the cabbage, chicken stock, water, orzo, Parmesan rind(s), and another big pinch or two of salt. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot occasionally to ensure nothing sticks. Add sausage and simmer for 5 to 8 minutes longer, stirring and scraping occasionally, until the orzo and cabbage are tender. Remove and discard rinds.
At the end, add parsley and red wine vinegar. Adjust salt and acidity to taste. Serve the soup in bowls, topped with grated Parmesan.