I know: I can’t think of a worse name for a soup, either. If someone I knew said they were serving this soup for dinner, it would almost assuredly be someone who sounded like my mother, and who would add on equally unappetizing statements like, It’s good for you. Or maybe something about how children in some other country were starving. Castor oil would undoubtedly enter the discussion.
The first time I made this soup wasn’t quite that bad, but it wasn’t that good, either. I didn’t read the instructions completely, so I just roughly chopped up the cabbage instead of taking a bit of extra time and slicing it thinly as directed. Also, The Child got hungry, so I cut short the cooking time on the cabbage by about a half hour. Not my finest hour in the kitchen: the resulting soup tasted nutritious, in a drink-your-vitamins kind of way, and cabbage-y. Not horrible, to be sure, but nothing I really wanted to serve again.
I couldn’t understand why Marcella Hazan would do that to me, so I tried again, and followed the instructions more carefully, allowing the thinly-sliced cabbage to cook as directed, over a very low heat, for a very long time.
This time, it was all I could do not to eat all the cabbage right out of the pot. All of it. Now, I like cabbage, especially when it’s called sauerkraut and there’s a hot dog involved – this cabbage with nothing like that. It was meltingly soft and mild.
You can make the cabbage ahead of time, if you can restrain yourself from eating it, and then finish making the soup whenever you’re ready. The soup is pretty straightforward. It’s very thick, closer to a risotto than a soup. I keeps well overnight, and the next day makes a superb lunch. It’s warming, and filling, and makes the whole house smell so good that you don’t mind being stuck indoors. And no guilt: it’s good for you.
Call it whatever you want. I call it The Soup That Goes To Eleven.
The recipe for Smothered Cabbage is here.
- 1 batch Smothered Cabbage (see below)
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup water, or more as needed
- ⅔ cup Arborio rice
- 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- ⅓ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
- Kosher salt
- In a large heavy pot , combine the cabbage, the broth, and 1 cup of water, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the rice, and then lower the heat so that the soup bubbles at a slow but steady simmer. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the rice is tender but firm to the bite, about 20 minutes. If you find that the soup is becoming too thick, add a little water. The soup should be pretty dense, but there should still be some liquid.
- When the rice is done, turn off the heat, and stir in the butter and the grated Parmesan. Taste, and correct for salt. Serve with black pepper and more Parmesan.