I’m kind of digging this L.A. winter. I was worried it’d be too hot and that I wouldn’t be able to cook my cold weather comfort food. Instead, it’s just cold enough to make a big pot of soup–like this Italian cabbage soup called Ribollita–and to feel good about it. Served up with lots of Parmesan cheese and toasted bread rubbed with garlic, this makes for a cozy, cheap and relatively healthy weeknight dinner regardless of your coast, east or west.
This particular recipe comes from Mario Batali, so you know it’s going to be good. It starts, as most good Italian recipes do, with chopped onion, carrot, celery and garlic; this one has a leek in it too, which is a rather French addition, but let’s not judge. Also: grab a branch of rosemary or a few of thyme, if you have them.
Meanwhile, you chop up a bunch of two types of cabbage: cavolo nero (black cabbage, which is sometimes labeled as “Tuscan kale”) and just regular old white cabbage.
That’s all the prep you need to do (Mario has you soak and cook cannellini beans separately, but I just used canned cannellinis and I was very happy with that decision). Now let’s get cooking. Heat up a good glug of olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot, add that first bowl (with the onions, carrots, etc), sprinkle with salt and cook just until soft. Then add your cabbage, sprinkle with more salt and stir all around:
It takes about 10 minutes for those cabbages to wilt and fuse together with everything else–just be sure nothing is browning (it’s a pretty standard rule, in a soup recipe, not to let anything brown–unless you’re in New Orleans). Now remove your herbs, add tomato paste, stir it all around until evenly distributed and add your can of beans.
Cover everything with water by an inch or two (about 6 cups of water), season with more salt but not too aggressively because it’ll reduce a bit. Because I also had a big hunk of Parmesan in the fridge, I cut off some of the rind and added that too:
Simmer gently for 30 minutes or so and your soup will look like this:
Now don’t skip the best part. Buy a loaf of sourdough or another good bread and slice it relatively thick. Pop it under the broiler and brown it on both sides until nice and toasty, rub raw garlic on to each slice and then drizzle with olive oil.
To serve, ladle the soup into bowls, stick in a slice of the garlic-rubbed bread, drizzle with a little olive oil and grate fresh Parmesan on top.
Thank you, L.A. winter, for letting me eat this soup. I owe you one.
Summary: Cold-weather cabbage soup adapted from Mario Batali.
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Spanish onion, thinly sliced
- 1 leek, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced [be sure to cut it vertically first and to wash the layers under running water, or you might get sand in your soup]
- 2 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 2 celery stalks, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 2 to 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced, plus 1 whole garlic clove
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme or rosemary or both
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 pound roughly chopped cavolo nero (black cabbage)
- 1/2 pound roughly chopped white cabbage
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 can Cannellini beans, drained (but not rinsed)
- 4 to 6 cups water (or more, if necessary)
- Italian peasant bread or sourdough, sliced thickly
- Salt and pepper
- Freshly grated Parmesan
- In a Dutch oven or large pot, heat the olive oil and add the onion, leek, carrot, celery, sliced garlic and herbs. Sprinkle gently with salt, stir and cook until the vegetables are soft but not at all brown.
- Add the black and white cabbage, sprinkle again with salt, and cook until they’ve softened and the flavors have blended, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper. Remove the rosemary, thyme and bay leaf.
- Add the tomato paste and stir until it’s well distributed throughout the vegetable mixture.
- Add the beans and enough water to make it look soupy (about 6 cups). (You could also add a Parmesan rind here, if you have one.) Sprinkle again with salt, stir all around and simmer for 30 minutes until the soup thickens slightly and tastes great (you may need to adjust with more salt and pepper).
- Meanwhile, place the bread under the broiler and toast, on both sides, until deep dark brown. Rub the toasted bread with a raw garlic clove and drizzle with olive oil.
- Ladle the soup into bowls and serve up with the toasted bread (Mario calls it “garlic bruschetta”) and Parmesan for grating on top.
If you can’t find black cabbage, you could try using just plain, ordinary kale. Just be sure to remove the stems first.