Traditional Italian Zuppa Di Cavolo or Italian cabbage and bean soup is a classic budget-friendly soup that is perfect for delicious, inexpensive and nutritious meat-free meals. You won't feel like your budgeting with a bowl of this impressive looking Italian inspired soup, rather its more like glamping in the kitchen!
Zuppa Di Cavolo can be adapted to whatever you have to hand, such as any variety of cabbage or kale, any cooked pulse, your choice of potatoes. Really any herbs or veggies available can be popped into the bubbling soup pot to create a quick hearty family meal.
Origin of Zuppa Di Cavolo
Zuppa is an Italian word and refers to soup wheres Cavolo translates to cabbage.
Since at least medieval times Italy has enjoyed delicious traditional peasant and farmhouse style soups and stews that are perfect for meat-free, vegan and plant-based cooking. Zuppa di Cavolo or cabbage soup has many different variations and adaptations as throughout the years it would depend on whatever the cook had available that would dictate the final hearty cabbage soup meal.
In Italy cabbage is more likely to refer to Tuscan kale, black Italian cabbage, Calvo Nero kale or even Dinosaur kale! Whereas in the UK cabbage refers more to the white Dutch cabbage variety, or the green leafy Savoy cabbage, or even the red cabbage variety. Although all types of kale and cabbage belong to the same Brassicaceae family of veggies.
As cabbages are relatively easy to cultivate, provide valuable nutrition and tend to be inexpensive, including cabbage within soups and stews was and still is an incredibly popular simple hearty meal. It is just as easy to simmer up a huge pot of cabbage soup to feed a hungry crowd, as it is to just prepare a small pot suitable for one or two happy companions.
The Ancient Roman writer Cato the Elder preached the medicinal benefits of cabbage and claimed that the humble cabbage was nutritional superior compared to other veggies.
If you or a loved one is feeling gloomy this autumn or winter and nursing a cold or the latest thing doing-the-rounds, then a hot bowl of comforting, nourishing, and huggable Italian style cabbage and bean soup is just the ticket.
How to prepare tasty Italian cabbage and bean soup
This Zuppa di Cavolo soup may have an exotic sounding name but it is packed with wholesome everyday ingredients which can be easily subbed for what you have to hand, in season veggies, and perhaps any reduced price veggies you can find in the supermarket. Serve with ripped up crusty bread chunks [stale bread is perfect] for a satisfying, comforting and warming meal.
Saute the onions, leeks, celery and garlic in oil, vegan margarine or ½ cup of veggie stock for 4-5 minutes.
Add the carrots, bell pepper, and courgette and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
Chuck in the potatoes and give it all a good stir.
Next tip in the drained canned beans, and pour in the tomato passata [or canned chopped tomatoes].
Add a sprig of rosemary or your choice of fresh or dried herbs.
Season with salt and pepper.
Bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the veggies are soft.
Next stir through the kale and simmer for 4-5 minutes.
Finally pop in the peas, along with the red wine vinegar, and simmer for a few minutes.
Optional: Garnish with fresh parsley and basil.
Serve with pieces of crusty bread or place torn bread pieces into each serving bowl and ladle the thick hearty soup over.
Recipe notes and FAQS
Storage, freezing and reheating
Store leftover soup within a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Or store within a freezer for 4-6 months.
Defrost before reheating either on the stove-top or within a microwave.
To reheat soup on the stove-top, place into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add extra water or veggie stock to the soup if it has become very thick. Once boiling lower the heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes until the soup is piping hot throughout.
Alternatively place the soup into a microwave safe dish and reheat until piping hot. Stop the microwave and give the soup a stir at least once during reheating.
Of course. As with any good recipe do feel free to tailor the ingredients to your own preferences and for whatever produce is available.
A few suggestions:
* cabbage or kale can be replaced with any green leafy variety including Tuscan kale, Calvo Nero, savoy cabbage, white cabbage, spring greens, collard greens, turnip greens, Swiss chard, spinach, etc. Although do keep in mind the cooking differences for different greens, such as spinach will only require a few minutes cooking or even just a few seconds of wilting in the soup before serving.
* replace the courgette with an extra green bell pepper or an extra celery stick
* use sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes
* any variety of cooked bean can be used, so just use what is easily available
* canned tomatoes can replace the tomato passata, or blend up whole fresh tomatoes
* a few teaspoons of garlic powder or granules can be subbed for the fresh garlic
* not got any fresh onions? just use a few teaspoons of dried onion for a great depth of flavour
* add any fresh herbs you like to the cooking soup such as thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano, bay, dill, fennel, etc
A few ideas:
* sprinkle of red pepper/paprika or chilli flakes
* nutritional yeast flakes [particularly popular with kids due to the cheezie flavour these tasty flakes add]
* sliced spring/green onions
* sliced fresh chilli or a few canned jalapenos
* any fresh herbs especially parsley, basil or chives
* a few olives, especially tasty garlic stuffed olives
* chopped veggie sausages
* a teaspoon or two of jarred/canned or fresh made pesto
* a scoop of salsa
* a dollop of hummus/humous
* a spoonful of vegan soured cream/creme fraiche or vegan plain yoghurt
* a torn wedge of crusty bread scattered and mixed through
* broken crackers crumbled over the soup
* crispy roast chickpeas [easy recipe over on our curried cauliflower soup post]
* home-made croutons [check out our easy crouton recipe over on the cream of swede [rutabaga] soup post. Croutons are perfect for using up stale bread, use an air-fryer if available instead of the oven to save energy costs]
Yes. Italian cabbage and bean soup is perfect for gluten-free diets with a few considerations.
Simply ensure that your veggie stock or broth is free from gluten ingredients, and if bread is used then choose a gluten-free variety.
Some vinegars are not suitable for a gluten-free diet but the wine vinegars are generally considered safe for gluten-free diets. However, its best to check the ingredients and label just to be sure.
More vegan traditional, rustic, budget-friendly soups:
Italian Cabbage and Bean Soup [Zuppa Di Cavolo]
- 1 large soup pot [stove-top Dutch oven or similar pot]
- 2 tablespoon oil such as olive or rapeseed oil, or vegan butter/margarine or ½-¾ cup veggie stock
- 1 large onion rough diced
- 6 whole garlic cloves diced/minced
- 1 medium leek thin sliced
- 2 ribs celery diced
- 1 whole bell pepper small-medium chunks
- 1 medium courgette rough chopped into small-medium chunks
- 2 medium carrots small-medium chunks
- 300 grams potatoes small-medium chunks
- 400 mililitres tomato passata or 1 ½-2 400g/15 oz cans of chopped tomatoes
- 1.5 litres vegetable stock hot [use a few cups extra if a thinner soup preferred]
- 1 400 gram can borlotti beans drained, [about 1 ½ cups cooked beans] or pinto beans, kidney beans, etc
- 1 400 gram can cannellini beans drained [about 1 ½ cups cooked beans] or butterbeans, haricot beans, etc
- 1 sprig rosemary or thyme, or 1-2 teaspoons of dried rosemary, thyme or mixed herbs
- 250 grams kale or any variety of cabbage, chopped and thick stalks removed
Add for last 5 minute of cooking:
- 140 grams peas fresh or frozen
- 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
To serve, optional
- 6 slices crusty bread torn into rough chunks
- 4 tablespoon fresh chopped herbs such as basil, parsley, dill, etc
- Heat the oil or ½ cup of veggie stock in the soup pan.2 tablespoon oil
- Add the onions, leeks, celery, and garlic. Over a medium heat saute for 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently.1 large onion, 1 medium leek, 2 ribs celery, 6 whole garlic cloves
- Add the bell pepper, courgette, and carrot. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stir frequently.1 whole bell pepper, 1 medium courgette, 2 medium carrots
- Tip in the potatoes and give it a good mix.300 grams potatoes
- Stir through the beans, tomato passata, and hot veggie stock.Add the rosemary or an alternative fresh herb or dried herbs.Season with a few pinches of salt and pepper.400 mililitres tomato passata, 1 400 gram can borlotti beans, 1 400 gram can cannellini beans, 1.5 litres vegetable stock, 1 sprig rosemary
- Bring to the boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 20 minutes or until the veggies are soft.
- Next mix through the kale or cabbage and cook for 4-10 minutes, depending on the size of kale or cabbage pieces and how soft you prefer your kale or cabbage.250 grams kale
- Add the peas and red wine vinegar. Cook for a few minutes longer.140 grams peas, 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the rosemary sprig.The soup will be nice and thick but if preferred thin it out with an extra cup or two of hot veggie stock.
- Optional: Place the torn up pieces of crusty bread into the bowls or serve the bread on the side for dunking into the soup.6 slices crusty bread
- Ladle the soup over the bread.
- Garnish with fresh herbs. A sprinkle of nutritional yeast flakes is also tasty. A little drizzle of olive oil can be added if liked.4 tablespoon fresh chopped herbs
- Nutritional information is provided for guidance only and is not a strict calculation as ingredients vary.
- Nutritional data does not include the optional bread accompaniment or the herb garnish.
- Store leftover soup within the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Or freeze for 4-6 months.
- Defrost completely before reheating on the stove-top or within a microwave.
- Reheat until piping hot throughout.
- For gluten-free Italian bean and cabbage soup choose a gluten-free veggie stock/broth and ensure that the red wine vinegar is free from gluten [which it usually is].
- Any variety of cabbage is fine for this recipe including Tuscan kale, red kale, Calvo Nero, white cabbage, green cabbage, Savoy cabbage, Spring greens [young or early cabbage], etc. Red cabbage can also be used and will create an interesting and tasty soup.
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