Italian bread & cabbage soup with sage butter

This scrumptious, thick bread soup is about bigging up the cabbage family – the king of winter veg. It's layered a little bit like a lasagne, with grilled bread and cabbage in stock, and as it cooks it plumps up a bit like bread and butter pudding. Fontina cheese is available in good supermarkets or cheese shops, but you can substitute good-quality Cheddar or Gruyère.

Nutritional Information (amount per serving)


Serves 8  


  • 3 litres organic chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 Savoy cabbage, stalks removed, outer leaves separated, washed and roughly chopped
  • 2 big handfuls cavolo nero or kale, stalks removed, leaves washed and roughly chopped
  • 16 slices stale country-style or sourdough bread
  • 1 clove garlic, unpeeled, cut in half
  • olive oil
  • 12-14 slices higher-welfare pancetta or smoked streaky bacon
  • 100 g tinned anchovy fillets in oil
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves picked
  • 150 g fontina cheese, grated
  • 100 g Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, plus a little for serving
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 small knobs butter
  • 1 small bunch fresh sage, leaves picked


Preheat your oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4. Bring the stock to the boil in a large saucepan and add the cabbage, cavolo nero and/or kale. Cook for a few minutes until softened (you may have to do this in two batches). Remove the cabbage to a large bowl, leaving the stock in the pan.

Toast all but 5 of the bread slices on a hot griddle pan or in a toaster, then rub them on one side with the garlic halves, and put to one side. Next, heat a large 10cm deep ovenproof casserole-type pan on the hob, pour in a couple of lugs of olive oil and add your pancetta and anchovies. When the pancetta's golden brown and sizzling, add the rosemary and cooked cabbage and toss to coat the greens in all the lovely flavours. Put the mixture and all the juices back into the large bowl.

Place 4 of the toasted slices in the casserole-type pan, in one layer. Spread over one third of the cabbage leaves, sprinkle over a quarter of the grated fontina and Parmesan, and add a drizzle of olive oil. Repeat this twice, but don't stress if your pan's only big enough to take two layers – that's fine. Just pour in all the juices remaining in the bowl and end with a layer of untoasted bread on top. Push down on the layers with your hands.

Pour the stock gently over the top till it just comes up to the top layer. Push down again and sprinkle over the remaining fontina and Parmesan. Add a good pinch of pepper and drizzle over some good-quality olive oil. Bake in the preheated oven for around 30 minutes or until crispy and golden on top.

When the soup is ready, divide it between your bowls. Melt the butter in a frying pan and quickly fry the sage leaves until they're just crisp and the butter is lightly golden (not burnt!). Spoon a bit of the flavoured butter and sage leaves over the soup and add another grating of Parmesan. Such a great combo!

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