Tenement Stew (Cabbage Alphabet Noodle Soup)

It’s difficult to photograph cabbage soup to advantage.  You have to imagine the wonderful aroma of cabbage and carrots and rich vegetable stock punctuated with garlic and thyme to be suitably impressed.


This is fall and winter food.  You can use items from your freezer and pantry.  I made this soup from only things I already had on hand.  The title of the soup is my nod to the hard life and how humble ingredients such as cabbage and potatoes have kept a lot of poor humans from starving.  There are people who undervalue both the wonderful flavor of cabbage as well as its nutritional contribution to the fall and winter diet.  Common cabbage is a good source of vitamin C, calcium, and Potassium.

When I first made this soup I did a cost analysis on it.  Here were my results:

Can this stew be made more cheaply than going out to eat a fast food meal? It turns out that the reason why poor people eat so much soup is because it’s a cheap and nutritious way to feed your family. I priced out my ingredients (bearing in mind that my stock was free since I made it from my own vegetable scraps, and my thyme was almost free because I grew it and dried it myself) this soup cost .53 per serving.

That’s for a cup and a half of nutritious and very tasty soup. Can you get a nutritious meal at McDonald’s for .53 cents? That’s a trick question. You can’t actually get a nutritious meal there.  Try my tenement stew. It won’t break your pocketbook. It will hardly make a dent in it.


2 tbsp olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

3 large carrots, chopped

1 large russet potato, cut into 1/2″ cubes

1.5 pounds of chopped cabbage

2 cups cooked navy beans (or 1 can of rinsed white beans)

3 cloves garlic, minced fine or pressed

1 quart diced tomatoes (with its juice)

1 quart of stock (or water)

1/4 cup alphabet pasta (or orzo, or rice)

1 tbsp dried thyme

2 tsp salt (or to taste)
pepper to taste
a shake of cayenne pepper for heat


Heat oil in a soup pot. Add the onion, carrots, and potatoes and stir frequently until the onions turn transparent. Add the stock and tomatoes. If the stock is still frozen just dump it in there and close the lid for a while, checking to keep vegetables from sticking. Now turn the heat down to medium and add the cabbage, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. If the soup is too thick, add some water to it. When all the vegetables are cooked through, add the cooked beans and the pasta and a shake of cayenne pepper. Cook for an additional ten minutes. When the pasta is done the soup is done.

This soup serves 6-8

Whether or not you need to economize right now, this is an excellent stew to eat when the wind outside is cutting through your wool coat and the rain is sheeting against your face. Eat it with a decent sized hunk of wheat bread with butter if you need to be out in that weather for long. The cayenne will help warm your blood, the garlic will help fend off the plague.

This recipe is vegan if the pasta you use has no eggs in it.

This recipe can be gluten free if you use a gluten free pasta: if you’re making it for someone who is eating gluten free because they have to (they’re allergic), please be very careful which pasta you use because some “gluten free” foods are made in factories where gluten is present.  If possible check with the person to see if they know of a safe brand.  OR just leave the pasta out altogether.

3 thoughts on “Tenement Stew (Cabbage Alphabet Noodle Soup)

  1. Casa de Lulu

    That looks so simple and delicious! I’m feeling really rotten from a cold that is sapping all my energy- but I might have enough to make this soup!
    I do have one question though-
    is it my imagination, or did you also put white beans in your soup? I didn’t see that on the recipe but I’m sure I saw a few peeking out of the cabbage.
    I’m going to force myself to go to the store and buy some cabbage today- I desperately need some warm, nutrition in my tummy:)

  2. stitchy1

    Oh my hell! I didn’t put them in the ingredient list and it’s very important because it gives protein to the soup. I’ll fix it immediately. I’m so glad you notice these things! But I’m sorry you have a rotten cold. This is the perfect soup for it.

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