Cabbage is simple food, but that fact belies the deep flavor and wonderful aroma it imparts. The chestnuts add a certain sweetness and the pancetta adds further depth of flavor.
serves 6 This soup is particular beautiful if you can find a deeply purple cavolo nero cabbage. Which is not the same thing as a red cabbage. Use green savoy if a cavalo nero is not available.
- 20 raw chestnuts
- 6 cup water
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 cavolo nero or savoy cabbage, tough outer leaves removed
- 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 7 ounce pancetta, sliced thin and cut crosswise into ribbons
- 1 large onion, cut in ¼” dice
- 3 clove garlic, peeled and minced
- 2 teaspoon rosemary leaves
- 1 cup red wine
- salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Find the flat side of each chestnut and cut a large X with a sharp paring knife all the way through the skin. Be very careful, it’s easy to slip on the surface of the chestnut. I wear a silicon glove. Place chestnuts on a shallow baking pan and place in the oven to roast for about 30 to 40 minutes, depending on size of nuts. Shake pan several times to rotate chestnuts so they will cook evenly. Peel roasted chestnuts as soon as they are cool enough to handle. Once they cool completely, they are difficult to peel. Roughly chop the peeled nuts. Set aside. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large stock pot. Add 1 tablespoon salt. Add the chopped cabbage and cook about 15 minutes. Turn the heat off and cover the pot to keep warm. Warm the olive oil in a very large skillet set over medium heat. Add the pancetta, and cook stirring often, until it just begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring often about 3 more minutes, until the onion softens. Add the rosemary and garlic, cooking another 2 or 3 minutes. Using tongs move about half of the cabbage to the skillet with the onion mixture. Add the wine to the skillet and cook, stirring often, until most of the liquid is evaporated. Turn off the heat and set aside. Using an immersion blender puree the remaining cabbage and its cooking liquid in the stock pot. Add the reserved onion mixture, stirring to incorporate. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Using the immersion blender, blend the soup just a little bit to get a variable texture. It can be as rough or smooth as you prefer. Add half the reserved chestnuts and bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Serve the soup hot with an garnish of remaining chestnuts and a drizzle of olive oil.