Winter Bread Soup from Pisa – Zuppa Pisana

This week we show you a very traditional peasant zuppa from Pisa – Toscana (zuppa pisana). Despite the humble origins and ingredients, it is a very tasty and nutritious dish. The principal ingredient is black cabbage (cavolo nero or palmekål); if you prefer a sweeter taste you can replace it with the green one.

The recipe is a very old one, coming directly from granny Elgiva, the grand-grandmother of my dear friend Irene.

Advice: let rest a day in the fridge and reheat before eating to enhance all the flavours!

Winter Bread Soup from Pisa – Zuppa Pisana

Ingredients for 4 servings

  • 400 g cannellini beans dried and soaked overnight
  • 3 small potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 4 zucchini, diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 300 g cavolo nero (known as black cabbage or palmekål in danish), leaves and stalks finely sliced
  • 3 large slice  good-quality bread
  • 1 stick celery, chopped
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 bay leaf
  • origan
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • raw onion rings, to taste


  • Add the soaked beans to a pan of water (around 1 litre) with a bay leaf, the garlic and salt. Cover with a lid and cook until tender (dried beans can take up to an hour and half for being cooked)– taste one bean to check if they’re soft.
  • When they are cooked, discard the bay leaf and the garlic, then blend them. You will use the mix like a broth.
cavolo nero, black cabbage, palmekål
  • Heat a saucepan with 3 tbs of extra vergine olive oil and add the chopped carrots, celery and onion to the pan, letting them brown for 5 min. Then add the diced potatoes, zucchini and black cabbage, and let them cook slowly on a low heat with the lid just ajar for around 10 to 15 minutes until soft.
  • Add one ladle of broth of mashed beans, salt and origan. Let cook for 10 min and then add all of the broth. Let it cook for around 20 min. The soup should be thick but not dry, if it is a bit dry add a little more water.
Winter Bread Soup from Pisa – Zuppa Pisana
  • In the meantime put the slices of bread in a plate, so as to cover the bottom (as shown in the picture above). When the soup is ready, pour it on the top with a ladle. Season the zuppa with grounded pepper and  extra vergine olive oil.
  • If you like the raw onion rings, complete this peasant zuppa toscana with some of them!

Francesca & Marinella

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