Savoy Cabbage and Parmesan Rind Soup

I used to love dumping that pre-grated parmesan cheese in a can all over my pasta when I was little.  In fact, although it’s incomprehensible to me now, for a time it was the only thing I’d allow on my pasta–it being a well-known fact that tomato sauce was “yucky” except on pizza.  (Yes, and I complain about my kids being picky).  At some weeknight church dinner or another I finally decided it was going to be a difficult road going through life hating marinara sauce.  So I figured I’d better just learn to like it and just decided to start eating it.  But I didn’t give up liberal additions of the canned powder on top (often enough whacking the base to unclump it and get more out).

Savoy Cabbage and Parmesan Rind Soup (2 of 6)

That’s probably why I so clearly remember an episode of the Frugal Gourmet where the ingredient du jour was “true”  Parmigiano Reggiano, and I imagine I was shocked to learn that that it came cut like a slice of pie from a giant wheel of cheese that had been sitting in a cave.   (I don’t know how I thought it got in the can or where I thought it came from, or why in fact cheese was shelf-stable, but I digress).  Of course I was intrigued, but as often happened when watching cooking shows from Boston, Chicago, or Seattle, despaired of ever finding the real thing at our local grocery store.  But I didn’t forget–and this probably explains why a few years later me and my sisters were inordinately excited by the Italian restaurant 2 hours away at the fancy Oklahoma City mall (one that even had a Gap!)  The Pepperoni Grill was known for its peppercorn bread with a log of parmesan cheese baked into the center–we always got an extra loaf that probably barely made it home.

(Lest anyone think I was some tween foodie, around the same time I was also frequenting the “Cougar Den,” the place to get lunch at my junior high–an 80-year-old converted athletics room, walls painted royal blue and lined with vending machines.  And why, even if my kids one day charge me with hypocrisy, I am NOT a supporter of such machines in schools.  And yes, somehow a place called the “Cougar Den” has a different ring to it these days).

Savoy Cabbage and Parmesan Rind Soup (1 of 6)

Fast forward a few (ahem) years, and I’m a lot less picky but still enamored of parmesan cheese.  Of course, even though I only buy the “real deal” I still wince at the price– which is why I loved the idea of this soup from one of my favorite cookbooks, Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi (who I’ve talked about before here and here–or check out Molly’s recent post here).

Savoy Cabbage and Parmesan Rind Soup (6 of 6)

By using the rinds of parmesan cheese, I can stretch my food dollar a bit more and get a great meal in the process.  So no, the word “rind” did not stray into the title of this post uninvited–it’s entirely intentional.  And when you stop to think about it, there’s no reason that the heels shouldn’t impart that same distinctive, savory flavor of the cheese that it protects within its walls.   And no reason you shouldn’t take advantage of it.  I’ve been tossing rinds in the freezer as I go, and when I have enough, they’re ready to infuse a warm pot of broth, no thawing or forethought required.

You could add them to anything where parmesan flavor would be welcome, but I love them in this hearty soup.  Much as I love vegetables, the rinds’ flavor ensures that you don’t feel like you’re sucking down a liquid salad–just as you might add a ham hock or pancetta to add some body, use your parmesan ends–and make your soup frugal and vegetarian to boot.

Savoy Cabbage and Parmesan Rind Soup (5 of 6)

The other star ingredient here is caraway seeds–a classic Central European partner to cabbage, but perhaps a bit unusual when setting up a menage with Italian cheese.  But the caraway is the fresh smell of digging in the dark earth after spring rain, while the parmesan is sunshine and sophistication and nuance.  And they each in their own way perfectly bring out the Savoy cabbage that is the backbone of this soup.

If you don’t want to wait until you’ve collected enough rinds, you can make this soup just with parmesan cheese.  Just please don’t throw the ends out in the interim.  And do remember the next time you buy a wedge of that fancy cheese, that since you’re using the rind, it’s not quite so much a splurge–and there’s no reason to be tempted by that stuff in a shaker can.

Savoy Cabbage and Parmesan Rind Soup adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi.

Note:  shred the cabbage by cutting in half, then removing the inner core and then by slicing each half as thin as you can–it will “shred” itself.  You’ll want to make sure to reserve a few leaves for garnish–not only does it provide a lovely pop of color, but the fresh leaves add some textural interest.

  • 3T olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2t caraway seed
  • one medium head of Savoy Cabbage, shredded, with outer leaves reserved for garnish.
  • one potato, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 dried hot pepper
  • 4 c chicken or vegetable stock and 2c water
  • 3 ounces parmesan rind (3-4 ends)
  • Parmesan cheese and caraway, for garnish

Heat the oil in a deep soup pot over medium low and add the onion.  Saute gently until soft, about 5-10 minutes.  Add the caraway seed and garlic and stir, then cook two minutes more.  Add the cabbage and potatoes and cook a few minutes more, until the cabbage starts to color.  Add the hot pepper, the parmesan rind, and the stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook about 20 minutes, or until the potato is soft.  Add more water or stock if needed.

When ready, use an immersion blender to break up the soup.  You don’t want to puree it, but rather convert into something thick and stew-like.  Adjust for salt and pepper.  Ladle into soup bowls.  Shred the cabbage leaves reserved for garnish, and sprinkle a few shredded pieces into each bowl.  Grate parmesan over the leaves and scatter a few caraway seeds over each bowl.

Savoy Cabbage and Parmesan Rind Soup (4 of 6)

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28 thoughts on “Savoy Cabbage and Parmesan Rind Soup

  1. Looks and sounds so good — parmesan is a favorite of mine, too! I love the mention of carraway, too — it’s such an underrated spice. Love photos, too!

  2. Ha! Cougar Den.

    For what it’s worth, the Pepperoni Gril”s bread loaf sounds pretty fantastic. No judgement here about buying a second loaf to bring home. In fact, that loaf coupled with this soup sounds perfect on this dreary rainy day.

  3. It was the Pepperoni Grill that introduced me to mixing balsamic vinegar and olive oil for dipping! LOVE it. That bread was seriously amazing. Also amazing, the eggplant sandwich and the homemade chips. As for the Cougar Den — I always heard it was an old swimming pool that was filled in.

    • I didn’t realize that you guys had a “cougar den.” It has a completely different ring now-for sure!

      I remember I used to hate the whole dipping bread in olive oil. Those days are definitely gone.

  4. Ah, yes, that irridescent green paper can of “Parmesan cheese.” Future archeologists will encounter urban tells of those empty green cans, wonder what ritual purpose they might have served, and why they’re always found in close proximity to wishbone shaped glass bottles. Good post. Ken

  5. Nice photos. That soup looks delicious! Ottolenghi really has a way with spices and heat. And how can you go wrong when you add parmesan cheese and rinds! I’ve never thought to use rinds in this fashion. Brilliant! (Great tea towels too.)

    • I assume you mean the cheese itself (being a follower of your blog I know what you get up to)–I can’t wait to see it–I bet it will turn out great but I can imagine being intimidated!

  6. This soup look delicious…who would’ve thought Parmesan and Cabbage work together, but it does! We love trying new dishes like this…it would be delicious with crusty sourdough bread 🙂
    thank you ~ TDL

    P.S. In honor of us launching our online jewelry boutique, we’re hosting the “Grand Opening Giveaway” @ http://www.tresorsdeluxe.wordpress.com. Enter to for a chance to win one of our most popular “Feathers” bracelets! 3 winners will have the pick of their choice of colors: Turquoise, Coral or Onyx!

    P.S.S – We might have to try the Pistachio Cardamom Cupcakes too, since we love anything with Pistachio!

  7. I keep parmesan rinds in my freezer- one went into a pot of chickpeas for one of my favorite ways to serve Roman pasta…you’re right, it does add so much to a soup. I also can’t believe that i grew up on that green can of parmesan. Back in the day (so to speak) I’m not sure the real deal was available in Massachusetts. Heck, we didn’t even have cell phones!! Ah, it’s good to be a child of the 70’s – at least we knew some “hardships”!! Great looking soup– i’m always wondering how I can incorporate more cabbage into our repertoire.

    • It’s crazy to think that in the 70s olive oil was probably some exotic ingredient too! Our kids are going to find some old cassette tape and ask what on earth it is.

  8. I love this! I have never seen the rind being used in soup but what a great idea! I adore Parmigiano Reggiano and try to always keep some on hand. It is pricey and a total luxury for me but so worth it. 🙂

  9. Pingback: Herb Pie from Ottolenghi and Tamimi's Jerusalem | Three Clever SistersThree Clever Sisters

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