When I was growing up we didn't have cabbage that much but I did like my mother's minestra. My Mother's family had 10 children and my Father's side had 8; so as you can understand, they had to stretch a buck. Not that my generation was considered poor growing up but we did eat the same foods that our parents did. MINESTRA, ZUPPA, MINESTRONE & BRODO all refer to soup in Italy. However, when we had minestra at home, this is what we got. First off, the only time we had it was after a ham dinner on Sunday and the bone was left over with some meat still left on it. Mom would boil the bone, add cabbage, a can of cannellini beans, some garlic, some olive oil and it was done. To serve it, she would put a slice of stale Italian in a soup bowl and scoop the minestra over the top. Well that was the extent of my cabbage eating when I was a boy.


  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 slices of salt pork or pancetta
  • 1 half inch slab of cooked ham diced ( or (2) 1/4 of an inch slices of prosciutto diced)
  • 4 cups shredded cabbage
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • A small handful of chopped flat leaf Italian parsley
  • 2 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1-2 cans (15oz) of cannellini (white kidney) beans, optional
  • 3-4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 Lb. of your favorite pasta
  • Kosher salt and white pepper to taste; if you don't have white handy, use freshly ground black.
  • grated cheese to top soup ; a must!


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta to boiling water, and cook until al dente (in Italian, this means "to the tooth", still quite hard); DO NOT over cook. Stir as soon as you drop the pasta. Start at some time during your cooking of the soup so they will be ready close to the same time. If you are using fresh pasta, do not add it to the water until the soup is done; it will only take a few minutes to cook. The rule of thumb is, when fresh pasta starts floating on the surface, it is done. Any type of small pasta or any mixture will do. My mother would use anything she had leftover or just break up some spaghetti or linguini. If the pasta is done before the soup, put in colander and one quick shot under cold water to retard any further cooking will be fine. I don't like rinsing pasta but this quick shot of water will also keep it from sticking together if it's sitting there for any length of time.

Heat a large saucepan to Med./high than add oil, butter, salt pork and ham. When the pork is slightly browned and the fat is rendered, remove from pan and set aside. Add the cabbage and onion to the pan along with a little chicken stock wand sauté until the onions get somewhat translucent. Chop salt pork finely and return to pan along with the rest of the stock, (beans if using), the parsley and garlic. Cover and bring to a simmer for about 15-20 minutes. S&P to taste and remove from heat. Only mix enough soup and pasta for what you plan to consume at one sitting. Save the balance separated so the pasta does not turn to mush. The amount of pasta you add is based on how much you like pasta.

Now! What the hell does an Italian know about Cabbage Soup????

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Submitted 9/22/05.