Braised Savoy Cabbage

Verza stufata (Braised Savoy Cabbage)

In contorno by Frank47 Comments

With all the focus today on trendy vegetables like kale and Brussels sprouts, we tend to forget about good old fashioned cabbage. It’s cheap and tasty and—just like its more fashionable cousins—good for you. And while most people associate cabbage with northern European cooking, Italians enjoy cabbage, too. Braised Savoy Cabbage is a favorite contorno, or side dish, on late autumn and winter tables in central and northern Italy. In this rendition, pancetta and meat broth add savor, although the dish can be made vegan by omitting the pancetta and substituting vegetable broth or water for the meat broth. And while verza, or Savoy cabbage, is classic, the recipe does equally well when you substitute green cabbage, which the Italians call cavolo cappuccio.

Ingredients

Serves 4-6

  • 1 head of Savoy cabbage
  • 50g (2 oz) pancetta, cut into cubes
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • Olive oil (or lard)
  • Meat broth, preferably homemade, or water, q.b.
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Remove any wilted outside leaves from the cabbage. Split it in half vertically,

Stufato di verza-1

then in half again, so you have four quarters. Trim the core from each quarter,

Stufato di verza-2

then cut the quarters horizontally into strips, either thick or thin accordingly to your taste.

Stufato di verza-3

In a braising pan, gently sauté the pancetta and garlic in olive oil (or lard) until they are both slightly brown. The pancetta should render much of its fat but it should not be crispy. Remove the garlic clove.

Add the cabbage to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and turn until the cabbage is covered all over with the seasoned fat. Let the cabbage simmer, uncovered, for a few minutes, stirring from time to time. Add enough broth (or water) to cover the cabbage. Cover the pan and let the cabbage braise over very low heat for about 30 minutes or so, or until the cabbage is perfectly tender and the liquid has almost entirely evaporated. (If there is still a lot of liquid in the pan, you can simply boil it off over high heat.)

Serve hot. The dish can be made ahead and reheated. In fact, it tastes even better the day after than when freshly made.

Braised Savoy Cabbage

Notes on Braised Savoy Cabbage

The recipe allows for lots of variations according to your personal tastes. As mentioned, you can veganize the recipe easily by omitting the pancetta (and the lard, of course) and substituting vegetable broth or water for the meat broth, in which case I would be more aggressive with salt and pepper to make up for the flavor deficit. There is also a ‘red’ version of Braised Savoy Cabbage sometimes called verza in umido: add puréed canned tomatoes or passata di pomodoro to the cabbage after it has simmered in the seasoned and let it reduce before adding the broth. Then proceed as per the above recipe. If you want a more elegant version of the dish, substitute onion or shallots, gently sautéed until soft and translucent along with the pancetta, for the garlic. On the other hand, if you want to go in a lustier direction, you can throw in a dried red pepper (peperoncino) along with the garlic and pancetta; like the garlic, the pepper should be removed before proceeding. You can also use prosciutto instead of pancetta. And if you like, smoked bacon also works very well for a taste more typical of the northeast of Italy.

Pork and cabbage are, of course, an iconic combination. In this side dish, bits of pork flavor the cabbage, but you can reverse the ratio and produce a delicious main course like the sausages and cabbage dish we featured back in 2010.

Verza stufata (Braised Savoy Cabbage)

Rating: 51

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 head of Savoy cabbage
  • 50g (2 oz) pancetta, cut into cubes
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • Olive oil (or lard)
  • Meat broth, preferably homemade, or water, q.b.
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Remove any wilted outside leaves from the cabbage. Split it in half vertically, then in half again, so you have four quarters. Trim the core from each quarter, then cut the quarters horizontally into strips, either thick or thin accordingly to your taste.
  2. In a braising pan, gently sauté the pancetta and garlic in olive oil (or lard) until they are both slightly brown. The pancetta should render much of its fat but it should not be crispy. Remove the garlic clove.
  3. Add the cabbage to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and turn until the cabbage is covered all over with the seasoned fat. Let the cabbage simmer, uncovered, for a few minutes, stirring from time to time. Add enough broth (or water) to cover the cabbage. Cover the pan and let the cabbage braise over very low heat for about 30 minutes or so, or until the cabbage is perfectly tender and the liquid has almost entirely evaporated. (If there is still a lot of liquid in the pan, you can simply boil it off over high heat.)
  4. Serve hot. The dish can be made ahead and reheated. In fact, it tastes even better the day after than when freshly made.
http://memoriediangelina.com/2014/11/07/braised-savoy-cabbage/

Comments

  1. Can you add vinegar or balsamic to this recipe to make it a little sour like a sauerkrauty taste? I had this type of side dish in a small italian restaurant in Hong Kong and it was delicious! Not sure if adding vinegar or balsamic will make it like that but if anyone tried it I would appreciate any feedback.

    1. Author

      I’m sure you could, although I’ve never tried it myself. There is another popular cabbage dish, verza stufata in agrodolce, which is sweet-and-sour. You add both balsamic vinegar and a pinch of sugar—along with raisins and anchovies. I wonder if that wasn’t the dish you had in Hong Kong?

  2. I’m a big fan of cabbage, Frank, but I’ve never prepared it with a bit of meat broth. I’m more prone to include an apple with a splash of vinegar — apple cider or balsamic. I’ve yet to come upon a bad way to prepare it and look forward to giving your method a try. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Love this! My family makes “minestra” like this, except instead of pancetta, Nonna would use a sausage made with different parts of the pig including the ears and skin. In addition to the cabbage, we add cicoria or dandelion and other greens and some borlotti beans at the end. With crusty bread and a sweet onion! Heaven!! And as you said, reheated, it’s so good! We add olive oil and stale bread 🙂

  4. Thank you Frank for reminding me how much I love Cabbage, have never tried the Savory version, will give it a try sounds yummy with garlic and panncetta. My Mom’s version, saute the cabbage with onion in olive oil, then add a tsp of celery seed with chicken broth and braise 30min and finish with a tbl of butter (or more :), salt and pepper to taste. Great side with Roast anything/sausage. CHEERS and HAPPY THANKSGIVNG!

  5. excellent + have u ever also tried the Veneto version called soffegae: e.i. no water and a little vinegar (hazan should have a version in essential, I think)?
    when we had the restaurant cabbage appeared few times on our winter menu: according to my notes (I had totally forgotten about it- getting old I guess) we used to cook the braised cabbage in the pressure cooker for a very long time, about 45 minutes (with pancetta, a white wine reduction and a splash of water): in the end the verza emerges almost bronze caloured (here for italian readers: https://qbbq.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/verze-sofegae-patate-e-gruviera-una-cena-degli-avanzi/)
    + the left overs can be transformed in a a beautiful minestra, adding water/broth and rice

    in Milano (whose cooking is especially partial to savoy cabbage) we say that the best savoy cabbage is the one that has experienced the first frost: does anyone know if there is a scientific explanation for this or is it just cookery lore?

    I agree with some of you guys: kale is overrated! 🙂
    ciao
    stefano

    1. Author

      The Venetian version sounds like a real “passe-partout”. And the idea of mixing braised cabbage with sautéed potatoes and topped with cheese melted in the oven sounds heavenly.

  6. Delicious recipe Frank! We love cabbage and haven’t tried it with pancetta, so this is definitely a must-try. The most popular pork and cabbage recipe here is lahanodolmades, stuffed cabbage with rice and minced meat, served with creamy egg-lemon sauce (avgolemono). And you’re right: pork and cabbage are fantastic together!
    Have a great week ahead, lots of greetings from both of us!
    Panos and Mirella

    1. Author

      Thanks guys! I think I’ve had that dish, actually, and it’s wonderful. Pork and cabbage is just a combination that was meant to be.

  7. Oh, my – this sounds so delicious. One of my Cucina Italiana issues has a soup with Savoy cabbage and pancetta and prosciutto and cheese… I like this lighter version as a side! Happy Thanksgiving – I think you will appreciate that we are having porchetta instead of turkey!

    1. Author

      Porchetta sounds like a fantastic change of pace, David. Save me piece! I actually do like turkey well enough, unlike many people who secretly (or not so secretly) suffer through it every year. 😉

  8. I missed this the first time around. I am so over kale (or is that not politically correct to say so?). I am fond of Savoy cabbage and use it a lot. I love the simplicity of this recipe and the pancetta is all it needs.

    1. Author

      Well, no problem with me. To be honest, I was never really into kale in the first place! Although I don’t mind the Tuscan (aka lacinato) variety.

  9. This looks great, but there’s no way I’d take that garlic out. I’d mince it fine and leave it in there, both for nutrition and taste!

    1. Author

      Well, we can all adapt dishes to suit our tastes. Personalizing recipes is part of what makes cooking so fun. But a discrete approach to garlic as illustrated here is the Italian way.

  10. Frank, we think alike when it comes to food. I love cabbage but then I am German. Your recipe looks wonderful. I just tried a recipe from Saveur combing sauerkraut and green cabbage with bacon and smoked paprika. I much prefer a simpler version like your recipe.

  11. This brings back wonderful memories of mamma cooking cabbage. Such a simple dish but it tasted delicious! She didn’t have lots of fancy seasonings but she made all of her dishes taste out of this world.

    1. Author

      That generation could have made a shoe taste good, I think… Where has all that culinary wisdom gone?

  12. I just love veg dishes like this. There is a reason they’ve been around fro so long. They are darn good anddn so satisfying.

  13. Verza is one of the vegetables I liked even as a child. And I like when it melts in my mouth like in your version.

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  15. True, cabbage is quite popular here in Italy. I remember I once bought some savoy cabbage to make pizzoccheri for American friends that were visiting (and these friends love food and experimenting and tasting new things) and they were quite surprised, and even a little doubtful (they admitted this after tasting and loving the pizzoccheri). To them cooked cabbage= grandparent food ;o)

    1. Author

      Glad to hear you changed/opened their minds! I love pizzocheri, too, with Savoy cabbage. As a matter of fact, I made my first batch of the season just last week… 🙂

  16. My grandmother used to make this, except that she put cannel ini beans (don’t hunk I spelled that right) in it as some point. It was fantastic that way too! Any thoughts on how to do that (i.e.. at what point in the cooking? She just used canned beans…so good!

    1. Author

      Sounds like a lovely addition! I’d add precooked beans to the pot just before the broth and let it simmer along with the rest.

  17. I adore savoy cabbage. It’s pretty too, with those crinkled deep green outer leaves. I grew up on my mother’s agrodolce version–braised cabbage finished with a bit of sugar and a hit of vinegar. It was always on our Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve table when I was growing up. Cooking down the liquid is a good idea, as it concentrates the flavor. I have a version with in Glorious Pasta that calls for pancetta, cream and caraway seeds (of all things). The cabbage is tossed with whole-wheat fettuccine. Heavenly. Cheers and thanks for another great recipe!

  18. The finished cabbage in the photo looks like it has been cooked longer than I prefer. I like it still a bit crunchy and that’s the way I make it. Otherwise, this is usually my recipe.

    1. Author

      As I’ve written about before, crisp-tender vegetables are not the Italian way. That’s particularly true for cabbage, as its sweet flavor really comes out when it’s fully cooked. But—as the saying goes–to each his (or her) own!

    1. Author

      Salve Stelios, yes, excess broth can be frozen, although I find that it loses some flavor. See the updated post for more details…

  19. I have cabbage to use up (I always have cabbage to use up). Love this savory way – don’t remember my mother ever using cabbage. I am making up the deficit with your help.

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