Verza e salsiccia (Sausage Braised in Cabbage)

Not sure about you, but the weather here has crossed the line from pleasantly crisp to downright cold at night. That’s as good an excuse as any for some good, stick to the ribs eating. It may sound eastern European, but Italians, too, like their cabbage, especially in colder weather, and like to combine it with pork. The typical Italian cabbage is verza, the kind with fairly loose, crinkly, finely threaded leaves known in English (at least in the US) as “savoy” cabbage, which develops a delicate, sweet taste when cooked. Like other types of cabbage, it marries perfectly with sausage. The dish is not the prettiest thing to look at, but it tastes wonderful, and it warms the body and soul on a cold night.

Ingredients (for 4-6 servings)

4-6 (or more) mild Italian sausages
Olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 head of Savoy cabbage, finely shredded
1 apple, peeled, cored and diced (optional)
Fennel seeds (optional)
Salt and pepper
Broth or water


Prick the sausages and sauté them over medium heat in a bit of olive oil until lightly browned in a sauté pan or braiser. Remove them from the pan and set aside.

Add the sliced onion and let the onion sauté for a few minutes, lowering the heat if need be to prevent it from browning. (A few drops of water will help things along.) Then add your shredded cabbage and mix it well with the onion. Season well with salt and pepper. Continue cooking, stirring often, until the cabbage has reduced down quite a bit. (You can cover it between stirs, which allows it to steam in its own liquid, which quickens the process.)

When the cabbage has reduced in volume by about half, you can add some diced apple if you like, which gives the dish a slight sweetness. Stir again to mix the apple evenly into the cabbage. You can also add a few fennel seeds, which adds another layer of flavor.

Then add the sausages back into the pan, nestling them into the cabbage at even intervals, and pour in enough broth (or water) to almost cover the cabbage. Lower the heat, then cover the pan, and let the dish simmer for a good 45 minutes to an hour, until the cabbage is literally melting and the sausages are quite soft, too. If there is a lot of liquid left in the pan, raise the heat to high and boil it (almost completely) off. Adjust for seasoning and serve immediately on a warmed platter or straight from the pan.

NOTES: You can use just about any sausage for this dish, although personally I would not choose a spicy variety. The thin, rope-like luganega sausage would be a great (and very typical) choice if you can find it. Otherwise, I usually just use the kind labeled as ‘sweet’ or ‘mild’ Italian sausage in stores. You can, of course, use ‘regular’ cabbage, which would give a different but also very nice result. You could even use red cabbage if you like—not a typical Italian vegetable but tasty nonetheless. The flavorings can also vary—caraway seeds are nice eastern European touch, for example. And if you like, some recipes calls for a dash of white wine vinegar at the very end, which ‘brightens’ the dish and gives it a sweet-and-sour taste. (Others use vinegar in substitution for the water/broth). A number of recipes call for adding some cubed pancetta to the onion soffritto at the beginning, but I usually don’t as I find that the sausage provides enough ‘porkiness’ on its own. And you can use lard instead of olive oil, if you really want to ‘pig out’.

This dish is sometimes served as a hearty soup, by adding much more broth and cutting the sausages into little pieces. The dish can also be used as a condimento for pasta or risotto (again, cutting up the sausage into bite-sized pieces).

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17 Responses to “Verza e salsiccia (Sausage Braised in Cabbage)”

  1. Tim Walsh
    23 April 2014 at 18:34 #

    Will try this the weekend as it looks an interesting and healthy combination.

    Last night for the daughter and grandson I improvised quickly; using Italian sausage chopped up with onions, cooked in a little olive oil. Then added sun dried tomatoes, served with pasta and parmesan cheese on top. The sausages are so versatile and with all the juices coming out was superb.

    It’s so satisfying seeing a seven year old boy appreciate basic Italian cooking!

      4 May 2014 at 12:38 #

      This turned out very well, especially considering the chilly weather in the UK we are currently enduring, Could not get spicy Italian sausages, but substituted bratwurst which were delicious braised with the cabbage.

      Later in the week, having made too much broth and the sausages eaten, I added; baby carrots, button mushrooms and made dumplings.

      Is there an Italian recipe for dumplings Frank?

  2. 20 February 2011 at 10:58 #

    @Kairi: And thanks for your readership! Glad you enjoyed the dish.

  3. 19 February 2011 at 11:16 #

    Tried this last night and it tasted wonderful! Thanks to the long cooking time the cabbage gets wonderfully infused with the pork flavor. Thank you for sharing yet another great recipe!

  4. 13 November 2010 at 10:37 #

    Enjoy the recipe, folks, and stay warm!

    @Gemma Olivia: Thanks for stopping by. You blog looks lovely–will be dropping by soon…

  5. 13 November 2010 at 08:32 #

    first time here, very nice blog!

  6. 12 November 2010 at 21:11 #

    i tried this recipe i found online called carbonara di salsiccia and it was great! now that i bumped into your blog entry, i am so going to try this one next! cabbage and sausage, why not! :) sounds and looks delicious

  7. 8 November 2010 at 20:28 #

    Love the dish…especially the apple. We have warmed back to the 60's but winter is coming on Thursday (and it will stay for 6 months) so this will be cozy to have at hand.

  8. 8 November 2010 at 19:41 #

    Make me feel all warm inside just looking at it.

  9. 8 November 2010 at 08:01 #

    I'll take mine just as you cooked it – cabbage and sausage are a perfect match

  10. 8 November 2010 at 07:56 #

    What a lovely dish! And cabbage is such an economical ingredient. Makes a great weeknight meal.

  11. 7 November 2010 at 21:47 #

    I am not the biggest fan of cabbage, but I would try this on a cold rainy evening – wonderful description and presentation Frank

  12. 7 November 2010 at 15:30 #

    I had no idea Italians ate cabbage and sausage. It sounds delicious, the taste of the sweet cabbage and the sausage would be perfect any night. Great recipe Frank.

  13. 7 November 2010 at 14:43 #

    This really sounds good. I have some kraut ready for canning this week and this dish made me think of it. I have linked this site to our food blog, Boise Foodie Guild, at Do stop by and take a look. Cheers!

  14. 7 November 2010 at 12:32 #

    like cabbage, and i love your foods, nice presantation..

  15. 7 November 2010 at 10:17 #

    Your Verza e salsiccia looks wonderful! I would not have thought to cook it so long, but I bet the 45 minute simmer makes the cabbage “melt in your mouth” delicious!

    I love finding new ways to use Italian sausage – thanks for this one!

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