Unexpected Potato and Cabbage Soup

By Giulia Scarpaleggia
Giulia Scarpaleggia
Giulia Scarpaleggia
Giulia Scarpaleggia is a Tuscan-born and bred food writer, food photographer, and author of five cookbooks, including “From the Markets of Tuscany.” She is currently working on her sixth cookbook. Find her online at her blog, JulsKitchen.com
November 15, 2021 Updated: November 15, 2021

Two tag-teaming, game-changing ingredients transform this unassuming potato and cabbage soup into a vibrant concoction.

Looking at the ingredients list, you’ll see that this is an uncomplicated recipe—one that tells a story of saving leftover vegetables that have been sitting in the fridge or in the pantry for too long. Half a head of cabbage, a few yellow potatoes, a single red onion, a leek, and a heart of celery—simmer them in a saucepan until they collapse into a creamy soup.

Then comes the surprise.

First, a few toasted black peppercorns. No, not the dusty ground black pepper sitting in the pantry. Instead, toast whole peppercorns in a hot pan until their pungent aroma tickles your nostrils; then, crush them with the flat side of a knife and finish mincing it finely with the blade. This will spice up the soup and marry beautifully the peppery notes of olio nuovo, freshly pressed olive oil—your second secret ingredient. These ingredients already work magic on their own, but as a team, they can be wholly transformative. Drizzle the hot soup with the olive oil, inhale its grassy aroma, and enjoy.

Serves 4

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, for cooking
  • 1 red onion, finely sliced
  • 1 leek, white part only, finely sliced
  • 1 celery heart, minced
  • 2 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 head Savoy cabbage, finely sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Fine sea salt
  • A few whole black peppercorns
  • Freshly pressed extra virgin olive oil (olio nuovo), for drizzling
  • 4 tablespoons grated aged Tuscan pecorino

Cover the bottom of a medium pot with the 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Add the finely sliced onion and leek and season with a big pinch of salt. Cook over low heat until soft, about 8 minutes.

Add the potatoes, celery, Savoy cabbage, and bay leaf. Stir and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes.

Pour in enough hot water to cover all the vegetables. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 25 minutes. You should be able to easily mash the potatoes with a wooden spoon against the sides of the pot.

Remove the bay leaf, and blend all the vegetables with an immersion blender until you get a smooth soup. (Alternatively, carefully blend in a blender, working in batches as needed, and return to the pot.) Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt. Simmer the soup over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until it reaches the thickness you like.

Toast the peppercorns on a pan for a couple of minutes, until you start smelling their pungent aroma. Transfer the peppercorns to a cutting board, crush them with the side of a knife, and finely chop them.

Pour the soup into four serving bowls. Drizzle with your best extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle the black pepper on top. Finish with the grated pecorino cheese and enjoy.

Giulia Scarpaleggia is a Tuscan-born and bred food writer, food photographer, and author of five cookbooks, including “From the Markets of Tuscany.” She is currently working on her sixth cookbook. Find her online at her blog, JulsKitchen.com