Cabbage soup was once the darling of January dieters, right up until it became their bane. Unlimited anything sounds good at first, but the forced monotony maligned the reputation of innocent soup. This cabbage soup is nothing of the sort. It takes the traditional kitchen sink soup and adds flavor and body with tomato paste, a thorough sauté of vegetables, and creamy white beans. You'll think twice about what cabbage can do in a soup after this one!
This recipe ushers in a fresh start for cabbage soup. Let's celebrate its flavor, color, and the fact that it's chock-full of healthful vegetables. It keeps nicely for days, as big-batch soup should. That being said, be sure to check the seasoning each time you reheat the soup — especially if you freeze any leftovers. Deep chilling mutes seasoning, so it will likely need a little salt, pepper, and a tiny spoonful of vinegar (just enough acidity to wake up the flavors without making it sour).
The recipe calls for Savoy cabbage, the one with the pretty crinkled leaves, but you can substitute a standard green cabbage. Red cabbage would taste fine, but will stain the soup a color that might be hard to get over or explain away.
Easy Cabbage & White Bean Soup
medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
medium carrots, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
small fennel bulb, cored and coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
olive oil, plus more for drizzling
low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
very small cabbage (about 1 pound), such as Savoy, cored and thinly shredded
Parmesan cheese rind (optional)
(15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained but not rinsed
fresh thyme leaves
thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
Red pepper flakes
Place the onion, carrots, fennel, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and pulse until very finely chopped but not pureéd. (Alternatively, chop the vegetables as finely as possible with a knife.)
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large soup pot over medium heat until shimmering. Stir in the onion mixture and a big pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft, about 10 minutes. The vegetables will nearly melt into a sauce. Increase the heat to medium-high. Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring quickly and continuously, until the mixture begins to sizzle, about 1 minute.
Stir in the broth and bring to a simmer. Stir in the cabbage and another big pinch of salt. Drop in the Parmesan rinds, if using. Simmer until the cabbage is very tender, stirring occaisonally, about 25 minutes. Retrieve the cheese rinds and either discard or nibble on them as a cook’s treat.
Stir in the beans, thyme, and basil and simmer to warm through, about 5 minutes. Taste and season generously with salt, pepper, and pepper flakes as needed. Serve warm, drizzled with olive oil.
Shredded cabbage: Instead of a whole cabbage, use 8 cups preshredded cabbage.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months.