Italian Cabbage and Rice

Italian Cabbage and Rice

This Italian Cabbage and Rice is truly a “peasant dish”; my Nonna in Italy made it often, probably because it stretched ingredients to help feed her very large family.

However, to tell you the truth, I’d rather have this warm, comforting and tasty meal, than some fancy haute cusine, any day of the week!

If you are just beginning your “unprocessed journey” and are finding it challenging, you’re doing something right! It isn’t easy in the beginning, but soon you’ll realize that there are so many better options and alternatives to the processed ingredients you have been using, you’ll kick yourself for having used them for so long (I know I have). I am constantly “weeding out” ingredients which I’ve been using mostly out of habit, and replacing them with homemade or unprocessed versions.

Recipes like my Nonna’s Italian Cabbage and Rice are a step in the right direction on the road to enjoying unprocessed meals everyday. It is simple, yet empowering. It is inexpensive, yet delicious, but most of all, it’s healthy!

Going “unprocessed” is truly a journey, and as with any journey, it takes time, so have patience and enjoy the ride!

Italian Cabbage and Rice Detail

4.48 from 17 votes

Italian Cabbage and Rice

There's really no way to mess this up. Make it more soupy (add more water) for wintertime, or more dry for the hot summer weather. There's no right or wrong amount of vegetables, and as long as the rice is cooked, the length of cooking time can vary greatly too, and will not affect the final outcome in a significant way; it's a very forgiving meal!
Course Entree
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Yield 4 servings
Calories 156 kcal
Author Christina Conte


  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 or 2 celery stalks chopped
  • 3/4 cup tomato purée or fresh tomatoes, pureed in a blender
  • 4 to 5 cups water
  • 1 medium Savoy cabbage
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt more or less to your preference; you can always add more later
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/3 to 1 cup arborio rice or any other rice
  • grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese to serve, optional


  1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot, over medium high heat. Add the chopped onion and celery when hot. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes, until onion starts to become opaque.
  2. Remove the core from the cabbage (I eat this part, it's very yummy and good for you too!) and chop into thin strips.
  3. Meanwhile, add the tomato purée to the celery and onion and cook for about 5 minutes.
  4. Next, add the water (you can always add more later) and salt; then add the cabbage. Stir often, and bring to a boil, then allow to simmer for about 10 minutes, still continuing to stir occasionally.
  5. Then add the rice. Use less for a more soupy dish, more for a drier result.
  6. Stir well, and continue to simmer for 30-40 minutes, until rice is cooked.
  7. Serve with plenty of grated Parmesan (or Pecorino Romano) cheese!

Recipe Notes

This is a perfect crock pot meal too. Just sauté the veggies, then transfer to the crock pot, adding the rest of the ingredients. Let cook all day. Easy-peasy!!

About the Author

Christina Conte is 100% Italian, but was born in Scotland and now lives in California…so she makes everything ranging from Bruschetta to Sticky Toffee Pudding to Spicy Soba Noodles with Chicken and Peanut Sauce. She believes natural, simple and unprocessed ingredients are the best, and loves cooking, baking, and (cr)eating. You can find her millions of food photos, old family recipes, and what’s she’s just cooked at Christina’s Cucina, and you can follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

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December 1, 2015 8:59 pm

Christina, could I make this with regular green cabbage (maybe cooking it longer before adding the rice)? Savoy cabbage is a real rarity where I am. I need to bring a side dish to a potluck and this looks really nice. Thanks!

December 2, 2015 8:40 am
Reply to  Millie

Hi Millie! Not sure if Christina will see your question, so I’ll chime in. I’m pretty sure green cabbage would be just fine. I think Christina chose this recipe to share, in part, because it’s pretty hard to mess up. 🙂

Let us know how it goes!

Christina @ Christina's Cucina
December 2, 2015 9:49 am
Reply to  Millie

Absolutely, Millie. As Andrew wrote, green cabbage would be fine. Savoy is preferable, but any cabbage will work. Enjoy! CC

October 1, 2014 2:43 pm

5 stars
I just made this recipe as a side dish for my family and it was devoured. Thanks for posting this simple, healthful, yet inexpensive recipe.

October 30, 2014 10:35 pm
Reply to  Shira

So happy to hear that, Shira! You are very welcome, and I hope you and your family enjoy it often! Christina

March 13, 2014 12:17 pm

5 stars
Super przepis!
pozdrawiam z Polski :)))

October 16, 2013 5:56 am

5 stars
This. Was. Delicious! Put it on my blog, too 🙂

Christina @ Christina's Cucina
October 16, 2013 8:34 pm
Reply to  Christina

Wonderful! Thank you, Christina! (Great name, btw) 😉

Elle Dee
Elle Dee
October 11, 2013 6:29 am

5 stars
I’m one of those slightly odd folks who doesn’t like her cabbage cooked too much. I’m also a bit of a novice in the kitchen. I’ve also never tried Savoy cabbage so I’m definitely interested in trying this recipe. Can you give me some guidelines on how to make this but keep my cabbage from getting too soft and/or mushy while waiting for the rice to cook?

October 11, 2013 7:16 am
Reply to  Elle Dee

Hi Elle, although I’ve never tried it, I don’t see why you couldn’t add the rice first, then add the cabbage later. Even though the cabbage cooks for a longer period of time in the original recipe, I wouldn’t say the result is ‘soft and mushy’. However, please let me know if you try cooking the rice first, and how it works for you! Thanks, and enjoy! CC

October 9, 2013 10:20 am

Has anyone used normal cabbage? Does it change the cook time or amounts at all? 🙂

October 9, 2013 10:27 am
Reply to  Devyn

Hi Devyn, yes, I’ve used regular cabbage when I can’t find Savoy and you cook it exactly the same way. This should be the lowest stress dish you will ever make; don’t worry about exact cooking times, measurements, etc. Remember, you can’t mess this up! 🙂 Enjoy, CC

October 8, 2013 10:12 am

5 stars
We made this last night, using quinoa instead of rice, it was so very yummy! I think we’ll be adding it at a staple recipe from now on!

October 7, 2013 8:12 am

What a homey and cozy dish of nutrition! I am reminded of Marcella Hazan when I look at this dish … may she rest in peace.

October 7, 2013 10:19 am
Reply to  Susan

Aww…that’s so nice of you to say, Susan. Yes, exactly the sort of thing Marcella would make. I am trying to do my small part to continue her quest to make sure authentic Italian recipes are being preserved and passed on. CC

Dana @ Foodie Goes Healthy
October 6, 2013 5:11 pm

Christina– you make the best comfort food, and there’s nothing better than a recipe from Nonna. I especially like your idea of making this dish with farro. The beauty of this dish is the simplicity, but have you ever added any other vegetables?

October 6, 2013 5:26 pm

Thank you, Dana! No, I always make it this way because I love it so much, but my mum said you can add white beans, like cannelinni, which would also add protein. I’m sure you could add any veg you like…couldn’t hurt! 😉 CC

Michele J
Michele J
October 6, 2013 4:54 pm

. Cabbage is one of my favorite vegetables. Cannot wait to try!

October 6, 2013 5:23 pm
Reply to  Michele J

Awesome, Michele! So glad!! Please come back to tell me how you liked it! 😉 CC