Under the Tuscan Moon

Zuppa with cavolo nero and olio nuovo


Many years ago, my then-boyfriend (now husband) and I decided to accompany a very good friend of ours on a trip to Italy. Florence would not only expose us to some beautiful art but it also happened to be near our friend’s sister's home. Our friend described her house as an old but refurbished farmhouse where she and her family pressed their own olive oil from their very own olive grove. Freshly pressed olive oil, as in Olio Nuovo? That was all I had to hear!
Related Imagery
Prepare the cavolo nero
Simmer the chicken stock
Download Recipe
We piled into the Fiat and looked for signs to Case San Romolo Frazione di Bagno a Ripoli. Several winding and poorly lit roads later, we were facing an elaborate and impressive gate to the farmhouse. By then, it was dark, so I could not make out the façade of the house but it seemed reasonably sized and had electricity. So far, so good.

At the front door, we were greeted with kisses on both cheeks and glasses of homemade wine, made from grapes grown on their farm. All of a sudden, our friend's sister yells something out to her husband. He quickly excuses himself from the conversation and goes outside. We didn’t think much of it until he returned, dragging a hose from the outdoor garden into the kitchen. Apparently the water pump gave out. It was difficult to follow the explanation, but it had something to do with the elevation, usage and old systems.

Now that the kitchen was once again equipped with water, the room started to fill with scents of toasted bread and garlic. All of these aromas were tempting our nostrils. What could it be? Well, we had to wait… because then the lights went out! A little more yelling and a quick dash to a back room produced some light but not enough. Again, we were told that the elevation, usage and old systems were to blame.

When the hostess finally emerged from the kitchen holding two candles, clearly mortified, she informed us that dinner would not be exactly what she had in mind for us as the electrical “brown out” had affected her oven, so she only had a zuppa. We assured them that zuppa was all that we needed anyway. And we were not lying. Out came steaming bowls of vegetable broth with a floating slice of bread, rubbed with garlic and topped with cavolo nero. It smelled like heaven. The host went around and drizzled some of the family's Olio Nuovo over the zuppa. A monastic silence hung thick in the air as we dug in. We were speechless. It was amazing. Who knew that five simple ingredients could transport you to a different dimension? We managed to resist seconds, but that night we all went to bed happy and full.

Back in the States, as soon as I see cavolo nero at a farmer’s market, I start to crave this dish. Olio Nuovo begins to appear in November and it is well worth the wait. I hope you make this recipe and enjoy it as much as I do.

Zuppa with Cavolo Nero and Olio Nuovo

4 cups water or chicken stock
1 large bunch of cavolo nero, washed, large stem removed and cut into big bite-size pieces
4 large slices of day-old bread, approximately ¾” thick
2 garlic cloves, peeled, but whole
Olio Nuovo to drizzle
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat water or broth to boiling point. Add cavolo nero and cook until wilted and soft, approximately 5-7 minutes. Meanwhile, toast bread slices until lightly browned. Rub raw garlic clove on warm bread and set aside. Once cavolo nero is cooked, remove from heat. Divide broth among 4 soup bowls, float 1 piece of “garlic bread” and top with cooked cavolo nero. Drizzle with Olio Nuovo, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Magda Gagliano is a chef and creator of a New York City-based cooking club, which offers a private chef service and small group cooking demonstrations. Find out more at CucinettaNYC.

Mentioned in this article


  • Thanks so much for the beautifully simple recipe- it looks lovely and cannot wait to try this one!

    Jan 27, 2011 at 8:19 AM

  • Snooth User: flueln
    643471 1

    If you live in a small underprivileged area rather than NYC, where would you get cavolo nero, or what would you substitute?

    Jan 27, 2011 at 9:29 AM

  • Snooth User: eitak
    361974 134

    You can use kale, any variety that's available to you.

    Jan 27, 2011 at 1:04 PM

  • Snooth User: MGagliano
    556011 10

    You can substitute with kale (just cook longer to reach desired tenderness), spinach (older more mature leaves NOT baby spinach), escarole and even romaine lettuce. Hope this helps.

    Jan 27, 2011 at 9:56 PM

  • Snooth User: MGagliano
    556011 10

    I also failed to mention that swiss chard and beet greens make wonderful substitutes.

    Jan 28, 2011 at 10:49 PM

  • Snooth User: Cape Dory
    141679 1

    Unclear if the Zuppa is served with the Cavolo Bero and bread & oil or just the broth alone with the bread & oil. Either way sounds great.

    Feb 02, 2011 at 3:49 PM

  • Snooth User: MGagliano
    556011 10

    You float the garlic rubbed bread in the broth and then top with the cavolo nero. Hope this clarifies things.

    Feb 02, 2011 at 9:19 PM

  • Snooth User: Szanyi
    728939 1

    Cavolo nero is also called Lacinato Kale or dinosaur kale. You can kind it smaller communities, look in the organic sections or ask you grocer to get it for you. It's worth the effort. I travel to Italy quite a bit and learned to only use cavolo nero in many recipes such as Ribollita. It's woody, hearty and simply divine in this recipe. Next time I make this I think I might add cannellini beans for a sophisticated take on beans and greens. I just made this, you have to love something so simple yet delicious!

    Feb 06, 2011 at 12:20 PM

  • Snooth User: Bish
    135655 5

    I'm wondering what the reddish, or red wine colored ingredients are floating in the picture of the cooking broth. Also, I bought seed online for the Cavolo Nero yesterday morning. Yesterday afternoon I went into a local plant nursery and saw a display or "Ornamental Kale". Most of the plants were Cavolo Nero--I bought them all.

    Feb 15, 2011 at 12:58 PM

  • Snooth User: Bish
    135655 5

    Sorry about the above post. I just enlarged the picture (duh)and saw that that answer to my question is onion skin.

    Feb 15, 2011 at 1:04 PM

  • Snooth User: kbn1021
    494351 16

    The picture of the finished product looked like it had cheese on top. Are we talking about parmesan?

    Feb 19, 2011 at 10:54 PM

Add a Comment

Search Articles

Best Wine Deals

See More Deals

Snooth Media Network