Tuscan Red Cabbage Soup (Zuppa di Cavalo Nero)

In the Tuscan region of Italy, they love white beans, pigs, Chianti wines, and pasta. Many of their soups are simple peasant fare elevated by the earth’s fresh bounties and finished with an inspired flourish of rosemary-infused hot oil.

Zuppa di Cavalo Nero - Tuscan Red Cabbage Soup

Zuppa di Cavalo Nero – Tuscan Red Cabbage Soup

This soup is all about comfort. It is not difficult to make and the end result is perfect for cold winter night or Sunday brunch. Sausage types are easily interchangeable, diced potatoes can replace white beans, kale or spinach can be added, and cream can replace extra broth. What should not be skipped, however, is a good chunk to crusty bread for dipping. The soup freezes and defrosts nicely.
5 from 1 vote
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Course: Soup
Cuisine: Italian, Northern Italy
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 50 minutes
Servings: 6
Author: My Hungry Traveler


  • Stockpot with cover
  • Medium skillet
  • small saucepan


  • ½ large Onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves Garlic, ⅖ of cloves chopped; ⅗ lightly crushed
  • ¼ lb Pancetta, cut into ¼-inch wide slices (bacon OK)
  • 1 lb Red cabbage, coarsely shredded
  • cup Celery, chopped (plus a few whole inner stalks & leaves)
  • 6 tbsp Canned diced tomato
  • tsp Dried thyme
  • 2 cups Beef broth
  • 2 cups Water
  • ½ tsp Each; salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper
  • 12 oz Sweet Italian sausage)
  • 20 oz Can cannellini beans (or other white bean)
  • ¼ cup Extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ tsp Dried rosemary
  • 2 cups Fresh spinach or Kale leaves, roughly chopped (optional)
  • 1 cup Water or heavy cream, if using.


  • In a large stockpot over medium heat, add 1 tbsp of oil, onion, pancetta/bacon, and garlic. Cook until onion and garlic lightly colored.
    Add shredded cabbage, celery, tomato, and pinch of thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is wilted and soft. Add broth and water, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper. Cover pot and cook over very low heat for 2 hours. Turn off heat and remove cover.
  • Brown sausage meat for 6-8 minutes. Drain and cut into ¼ slices.
  • Puree ½ the beans in the soup pot. Turn heat to simmer and add drained sausage slices. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Add the remaining white beans and spinach or kale. Add 1 cup more water or cream, cover, and simmer 10 minutes more.
  • In a small sauce pan over medium heat, add oil and crushed garlic cloves. Once the garlic becomes golden brown, remove from heat, add rosemary and stir 2-3 times. Immediately strain into the soup pot, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes more.
    Ladle into serving bowls and serve with a good crusty bread.


  • Cooking cabbage and broth can be done in advance and frozen or refrigerated.
  • Sausage may be cooked a few days in advance and refrigerated.
  • Original recipe doesn’t include cream but it does add a nice smooth finish to the soup, if desired.


Calories: 502kcal | Carbohydrates: 29g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 35g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 18g | Trans Fat: 0.02g | Cholesterol: 56mg | Sodium: 897mg | Potassium: 954mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 1832IU | Vitamin C: 50mg | Calcium: 139mg | Iron: 5mg

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