The King of the Frosty Vegetable Patch
A pie of raisins and Savoy cabbage, a soup of butter beans and discarded leaves
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Green, red, or white, cabbages are simply cabbages… unless, you know how to enhance the flavour, combine ingredients, and, eventually celebrate the royal dignity of the king of the frosty vegetable patch.
The weekly vegetable basket & Italian mammas
As if by magic, between November and March, our fridge turns into a cabbage parking lot. A slow, weekly accumulation, otherwise known as cabbage boredom, or cabbage overwhelm.
To be completely honest with you, never in a million years would I normally buy one cabbage per week. Alas, the peculiar underground workings of Italian familial relationships are at play here, a natural force you don’t want to mess with.
It’s been a few years now since my mother in law has reclaimed the right to fill our fridge with fruit and vegetables of her choice. No matter how vehemently we explained that we’re old enough to be responsible for our own grocery needs, she just won’t accept no as an answer. And we all know this is a plain excuse to have his son come by once a week, to pick up the veggie basket.
Now, my mother in law is not only majorly stubborn, but also the kind of person who would pop open a bottle of champagne just because we’ve stopped by to say hi. She’s in love with life. A demanding and curious woman, who, at the same time, and with unbearable ease, can transform the most humble ingredient into a tasty concoction (her parsley frittata is to die for, her tomato sauce, pure Mediterranean bliss).
The weekly basket encapsulates much of Anna’s approach to life: a bold, unapologetic celebration of all that nature has to offer, from the lowliest of potatoes to the most sought-after seasonal delicacy.
In winter, this means the best radicchios and artichokes on the market make their way to our table with scary regularity (these are expensive items, and usually bought once in a while for a Sunday lunch or a dinner with friends). Beside them, in the chest, a huge cabbage, or maybe two small ones.
While we consume the more interesting veggies without much difficulty, cabbages accumulate week by week, eating up space in my fridge, begging to be made into something before time makes its course (which, for cabbages, could be months…).
If you, too, struggle with cabbage overwhelm, then I invite you to try the two recipes below. And if you feel like suggesting your personal cabbage favourites, go ahead and leave a comment!
Midwinter Cabbage Pie with Raisins
Inspired by a vintage Venetian soup of cabbage and raisins, this pie is the perfect antidote to cabbage boredom with just a few raisins to bring out the inherent sweetness of Savoy cabbage. Whether it’s just for you, or your guests, adding an element of surprise can be a good idea.
CABBAGE PIE: A pie for winter nights, serves two abundantly.
1 sheet puff pastry (375gr-400gr / 13-14 oz)
½ a small Savoy cabbage
3 red onions
50 gr / 0.5 cup grated Grana Padano cheese + a handful chopped
3 whole-wheat crackers, crushed (or 3 tbsp bread crumbs)
4 sprigs of thyme (2 for decoration)
a scant handful of raisins
a generous glut of olive oil
4 twists of black pepper
pinch of salt
a bit of milk or egg wash
Preheat the oven to 200° with a tin sheet inside.
Slice the onions and cabbage into short strips and stew them with the oil over medium heat, lid on; when almost ready take the lid off and let it dry a bit then take the pan off the hob and leave it outside the window to cool.
Check the cabbage, if reasonably cool, mix with the cheese, all the dry ingredients. Lastly add the egg and mix thoroughly.
Pour the filling onto the rolled out puff pastry sheet (still lying on its parchment paper), then fold the pastry borders onto the filling creating a french tart-like shape. Decorate with a couple of thyme sprigs; wash the folded pastry borders with milk or beaten egg;
Take the hot tray out of the oven and carefully transfer the pie with its parchment paper onto it. Bake for 15-17 minutes or until golden.
For a summer version from southern Italy, you may want to try this instead.
No-Waste Cabbage & Bean Soup
This is the kind of soup that will warm you up on a lonely winter day. I use a whole can of butter beans (including the liquid), and the outer leaves of savoy cabbage, those that are usually thicker and more likely to be discarded in favour of the inner, softer ones. One may think that any type of beans would work. I, on the other hand, find butter beans particularly indicated for the job. I tried borlotti and cannellini but they just don’t go as nicely with the thick, emerald Savoy leaves.
BUTTER BEAN SOUP: A no-waste recipe for one.
1 tin canned beans and their liquid
2 external savoy cabbage leaves
2 teaspoons granulated vegetable broth or one cube of bouillon
2 dry or fresh rosemary sprigs
grated Grana Padano to top
Optional: cubed potatoes and chopped onions
Add all ingredients to a pot with a little water and let simmer until the vegetables are soft and the soup has thickened. Add water if needed. Top with the cheese, and some freshly ground black pepper.
For a quick pickling session, try this red cabbage, ginger, and apple sauerkraut method by Vicki Smith of
My name is Sinù Fogarizzu and I’m a vegetarian food writer from the mainland of Venice, Italy. In 2021, I launched Dash of Prosecco, a Substack newsletter about learning to cook, identity and Venetian cuisine. I’m on Instagram & Twitter.
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