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Cavolo Verza, or Savoy Cabbage

Prince of Winter Vegetables


A Head of Savoy Cabbage

A Head of Savoy Cabbage

© Kyle Phillips Licensed to About.Com
If the Italian summer means tomatoes, eggplant and peppers, the Italian winter means cabbages, in all sorts of varieties. Though you will now find most every kind throughout the Peninsula, in the past they were (like everything else in Italy) regional, and in the North you would have found primarily head cabbages, both cavolo cappuccio, the smooth-leaved heads that can be either green or purple, and Cavolo Verza or Savoy cabbage, the green-to-purple headed cabbage people also refer to as Cavolo di Milano, with its bright, wrinkly, almost bubbly leaves. By comparison with dishes made with smooth-leafed cabbage, the texture of a dish made with Savoy cabbage feels airier, at least to me, because of the structure of the leaves, and I find I prefer it that way.

When selecting Savoy cabbage, the standard rules for all leafy vegetables apply: the head should be firm, with nicely colored glossy leaves, and should feel heavy for its volume. If the leaves are dull, or the head feels light, it's likely past its prime. Once you get it home, it will keep several days in the crisper section of the refrigerator.

From a dietetic standpoint head cabbages (not just Savoy) are low in calories (before they are seasoned), and rich in fiber, folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin B, and even richer in vitamin E, which makes them a good preventive against spontaneous abortions; they're also quite rich in calcium, and therefore indicated for those suffering from osteoporosis. They also contain antioxidants, and sulfur compounds that inhibit the growth of Helicobacter Pilori, one of the primary causes of stomach ulcers. In short, they're good for you, unless you're prone to kidney stones.

Alas, some of the sulfur compounds in the leaves break down during cooking to produce that characteristic, penetrating smell that can waft through the house if not the neighborhood, and as a result many people like to eat cabbage out. One trick that can help ameliorate this problem is to wipe the lid of the pot with a cloth soaked in vinegar. Repeat as needed.

Speaking of vinegar, cabbage was one of the first vegetables to be preserved, as sauerkraut.

Have some Savoy cabbage, and not interested in making sauerkraut? Some other ideas:
  • Minestra di Verze
    Sausage and Savoy Cabbage Soup, another wintry recipe that will warm both body and kitchen, and is quite adaptable too.
  • Broeta de Verza de Magro
    This meatless soup was the traditional beginning of Dalmatian Vigil meals, especially Christmas Eve, when the chill of the Bora (a strong wind from the east) gives cabbage added bite.
  • Minestra Di Verza e Cotenne
    This is a frankly frugal Piemontese recipe, of the sort that even a poor family would have been able to afford in the past. We're better off now, but pig skins still do have a rather libidinous satiny texture that makes for a fine soup.
  • Inverzà
    Italy has a great many bean soups, most of which are rather creamy in texture. Minestra di Fagioli, or pasta fazool comes to mind. This bean and cabbage soup from the Veneto is instead liquid, and gains added body from slices of toasted bread. In short, simple, frugal winter fare of the kind once enjoyed by those who couldn't afford meat. No less good for that, and now a fine option for those who are cutting back on meat consumption.
  • Minestrone di Cavolo Verza
    Minestrone is more a universe than a recipe, with variations to suit every possible taste. This savoy cabbage minestrone is Campanian, and a welcome change of pace during the colder winter months of the cabbage season. It is very much simple peasant food.
  • Risi E Verze Alla Veneziana
    The Venetians introduced rice, to northern Italy, and developed a number of dishes; the best known is Risi e Bisi, Rice & Peas. Risi e Verze, Rice & Savoy Cabbage, is a bit more plebian, and simple winter fare.
  • Pizzoccheri con Porcini e Verza alla Salvia
    Or, Pizzoccheri with Porcini, Savoy Cabbage, and Sage: Pizzoccheri are a classic pasta type from the Valtellina, up in the mountains of Lombardia, and consequently are ideally suited to mushrooms and cabbages.
  • Fettuccine Con Verze e Puntine
    This is a winter recipe for pasta with cabbage and spare ribs from the Val D'Aosta, and will be a rather nice one-course meal.
  • Cavolo Verza alla Tirolese
    This may strike you as rather Germanic, and you'd not be far off: Up until World War I the northern half of the Val D'Adige was an Austrian province. Returning to the recipe, it's quite easy to do and quite nice too.
  • Cavolo Verza Brasato
    This is a more modern cabbage recipe, as you might guess from the presence of Worcestershire Sauce. It will work well either as a side dish with a roast or stew, or with polenta, in a vegetarian meal.
  • Cavolo Verza in Umido
    Though there are some elaborate cabbage recipes, many preparations are quite easy, and quite tasty too. This will work well either as a side dish with a roast or stew, or with polenta, in a vegetarian meal.
  • Verza Con Noci e Cipolle
    Savoy cabbage is a wonderfully versatile vegetable, and works beautifully with onions and walnuts in this Piemontese vegetarian entree.
  • Sformato di Verza con Guanciale e Pecorino Romano
    Or, Savoy Cabbage Flan with Pecorino Romano and Guanciale, a delicate relative of pancetta.
  • Involtini di Verza All'Anatra
    Rollups, or involtini, are usually meat-based, with vegetable filling. This Piemontese recipe instead has one use cabbage leaves as the base, and roll them up around bits of boned duck.
  • Verze e Luganega
    Savoy Cabbage with Sausages, is a classic north Italian winter dish, and though one might class it as a vegetable, it is actually a superb accompaniment to polenta.
  • Cavolo con Castagne e Salsicce
    Cabbage with Chestnuts and Sausages: Yet another cabbage recipe, and this time quite old; it appears in a collection of Piemontese recipes from 1771.
  • Savoy Cabbage Stuffed With Veal
    Though this does require quite a bit of effort, it's well worth it if you like cabbage.
  • Rambasci, Stuffed Cabbage Leaves
    This dish brings to mind the stuffed grape leaves of Near-Eastern tradition.
  • Oca con le Verze
    What does winter cold bring to mind? Cabbages, the classic winter vegetables. Here they go wonderfully with goose, in a Piemontese recipe that will serve six.

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