Comforting flavors for a cold and blustery day, an old standby adapted pretty liberally from Marcella Hazen’s The Classic Italian Cookbook. That’s another book that I quite literally cooked my way through, looking for authentic Italian recipes and methods. The first few times I made this, the beans and sausage turned an alarming shade of violet, like the red cabbage. “Purple” meat was really questionable but the soup’s flavor is so good that it’s worth keeping in the repertoire. Add the beans and the sausage if you use it, just before serving. The piney flavor of the rosemary was a good counterpoint to the richness of the melted cabbage, beans and meat. I used dried beans that I cooked, but canned beans would also work.
Red Cabbage and White Bean Soup inspired by Marcella Hazen
1 or two slices of slab bacon or salt pork, cut into ¼-inch dice
1 small onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 small head red cabbage or ½ medium head (about 1 lb), coarsely shredded
½ c homemade tomato puree, 1 medium fresh tomato, chopped or 2 canned tomatoes, chopped
2-3 c chicken or beef stock (include some bean broth if available)
Salt and pepper
½ tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1–1¼ c cooked white cannellini or kidney beans
Optional: 1 mild Italian sausage, skin removed, meat crumbled and browned
Parboil the bacon or salt pork, drain it and let it cool. Put a teaspoonful or so of olive oil in the stockpot and slowly cook the bacon until light brown. Add the onions and celery and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and stir to cook for a minute. Add the cabbage and toss, cooking, to wilt slightly. Add the tomatoes and liquid and a little salt and pepper, cook, covered, over very low heat for 2 hours. You can make the soup ahead to this point.
When ready to serve, add the rosemary and bring the soup to a simmer. Add the beans and sausage if using. Adjust the seasonings.