Cavolo cappuccio is the firm, round, smooth-leaved head cabbage that can be either purplish red or pale green, and most of my Italian cookbooks take it for granted: After devoting considerable space to describing the other varieties, in particular Savoy Cabbage (Cavolo Verza) and Kale (Cavolo Nero), they simply mention it, and perhaps say it's also used to make Sauerkraut.
There is more to cavolo cappuccio, however. Quite a bit more. It's one of the more abundant Italian cabbages, grown throughout the land, and in particular in Lombardia and the Veneto.
And it's quite healthy: Unseasoned cabbage is low in calories (about 25 per 100 g; this works out to about 22 per chopped cup), an excellent source of fiber, and rich in calcium and vitamins C, B6, and E. It also contains no cholesterol, and is low in saturated fats. Negatives? It does contain about 2.8% sugars, but the positives outweigh this, and the calcium content is such that Italian doctors recommend it as a source of calcium for those at risk for osteoporosis.
In terms of flavor, red and green head cabbages are interchangeable, and therefore is you are planning to serve the cabbage raw, say in a salad or slaw, you can let aesthetics be your guide. However, they are less interchangeable when cooked: As red cabbage cooks its color will leach out, dying what it's cooked with, and unless it is cooked in an acidulated liquid it will turn an unpleasant blue. Because of these limitations, many people prefer to use green cabbage in recipes.
Selecting Cavolo Cappuccio, red or green cabbage: Appearances count; the cabbage should be brilliantly colored (not drab), with unblemished outer leaves that hold tight to the head of the cabbage, and the cut end should be fresh and show no signs of discoloration. The cabbage should also feel heavy for its size, and be firm. No soft spots, and no cabbagy smell -- cabbage does contain sulfur compounds, which impart a crispness to the aroma, but it should not smell strong. If it does, select another head.
An uncut head of cabbage, loosely wrapped in plastic, will keep for up to two weeks in the crisper section of the refrigerator, though -- as with all vegetables -- it is best when cooked sooner. A partially cut cabbage will keep for a few days, loosely wrapped, in the crisper section of the refrigerator.
Come time to cook the cabbage, remove and discard the outermost leaves if they are dirty or show signs of wilting. Most recipes call for the cabbage to be cored. If the recipe calls for the cabbage to be left whole, simply excise the core with a sharp paring knife. However, if the recipe also says to shred or slice the leaves, it is much easier to core a cabbage by quartering it and removing the section of core in each quarter.
Enough Talk! Some Recipes With Green and Red Cabbage
Cappuccio in Insalata: Cabbage Salad
This simple cabbage salad from Friuli Venezia Giulia will be equally tasty with red or green cabbage, though I might choose green because it will contrast with the red of the pancetta.
Tortiglioni Con Cavolo E Salsiccia:
Leonardo Romanelli's tortiglioni with sausages and cabbage is quite tasty, and can be prepared in the time it takes the pasta water to come to a boil.
Cavolo Cappuccio Alla Vicentina: Cabbage Vicentina Style
Sautéed cabbage is common throughout northern Italy, with many relatively minor variations on the theme. This particular recipe is from the Vicentino, in the Veneto.
Cavolo Cappuccio Alla Siciliana: Sicilian Stewed Cabbage
Though most south Italian cabbage recipes feature the flowering cabbages, south Italians do also grow and enjoy head cabbages. This very simple stewed cabbage recipe is Sicilian.
Cavolo Capuccio alla Sarda: Cabbage Sardinian Style
Another easy, quick, tasty stewed cabbage recipe.
Cavolo Con Le Mele: Stewed Cabbage With Apples
The Alto Adige is famed for its apple crop, and what better way to prepare apples than with red cabbage? There are many versions of this recipe, and this one is fairly quick.
Cavolo Con Le Mele: Stewed Cabbage With Apples
The Alto Adige is famed for its apple crop, and what better way to prepare apples than with red cabbage? This recipe, which is spicier than the other, does take some planning, because you do have to marinate the ingredients, but the actual cooking is straight-forward.
Here's a recipe for left-over cabbage and leftover boiled meat from a treatise on dealing with leftovers published by Olindo Guerrini a little more than a century ago. A perfect way to use leftovers that will also work well with roasts.
Finally, Green Cabbage is ideally suited to being transformed into cappuzzi garbi, or acidic cavolo cappuccio: What is called sauerkraut in the Germanic world. As one might expect, it's popular in the Alto Adige, which is culturally Germanic. It's also popular in some parts of Friuli Venezia Giulia, especially the mountains behind Trieste, which are largely inhabited by Sloveneians.
Crauti Come Contorno:
Sauteed Sauerkraut Recipe Sauerkraut takes quite well to being jazzed up, and here's an idea that goes quite well with roasts or boiled meats
Capuzi Garbi: Cooked Sauerkraut
This is a classic Friulian way of cooking sauerkraut.
The classic sauerkraut-and-bean soup of Trieste and the inland karst region is unusual, tasty, and provides a lesson on regionality.