PHOTO BY KATIE NOBLE / STYLED BY CATRINE KELTY
I first made this soup as a “Sweep the Kitchen Twice” meal, which (if you’ve been reading my recipes long enough) tells you it’s a leftovers special, made accidentally out of lingering things taking up space in the fridge. Half a head of cabbage from the crisper, a box of leftover takeout rice and a few fat carrots came together one Sunday with homemade chicken broth, a hearty dose of grated Parmigiano Reggiano and enough onions and garlic to make one of the most flavorful soups we’d ever eaten. This was simple, basic, cheap food and we devoured it with crusty bread and a hearty red wine. Since then I’ve made it regularly in the winter, often starting from scratch with raw arborio rice to make it more risotto-style, or with leftover farro instead or adding beans or meat to the mix. The important part is the cabbage, the star of the show, cooked long and slow until sweet and tender before the other ingredients join the party. A drizzle of good olive oil and a splash of your best balsamic vinegar at the end makes this very peasant-y soup fit for a king.
extra-virgin olive oil
2 onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 head Savoy cabbage, cored and chopped or shredded
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
¼ cup minced flat-leaf Italian parsley, plus more for serving
1 rind of Parmigiano Reggiano (save them in a baggie in your fridge for soups)
1 pound carrots, peeled and chopped
6 cups chicken broth, either boxed or homemade
1 cup uncooked rice or 2 cups cooked
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
aged balsamic vinegar, for serving
In a heavy soup pot heat ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil and add the onions and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and sauté, stirring, until translucent, 8–10 minutes. Add the shredded cabbage, thyme, parsley and the bay leaf along with more salt and pepper and cook partially covered over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is wilted and tender, another 20–25 minutes.
Add the Parmigiano rind, the carrots and the rice (if using uncooked). Add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer; cook 20–25 minutes or until the carrots are tender and the rice is cooked but still has a bit of a bite, adding a bit of water if needed to keep the mixture loose and brothy.
If using cooked rice, cook the chicken broth and carrots 15 minutes, then add the cooked rice and simmer an additional 10 minutes. Stir in ½ cup grated Parmigiano, then taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed.
Sarah Blackburn is a home cook, recipe developer, soccer mom, Italophile and managing editor at Edible Boston. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.