This Italian kale soup, or zuppa valdostana, is a rustic, hearty, meal in a bowl that layers kale and cabbage with slices of ciabatta bread and Gruyère, fontina, and Parmesan cheeses.

This Italian kale soup, or zuppa Valdostana, hails from the Italian Alps and, as one of our recipe testers reminded us, “reflects both the frugality of Italian peasant food while highlighting the importance of cheese to the Swiss and French.” Translation? Your daily quota of good-for-you greens is layered with ciabatta and a not-too-shy portion of melted cheese. Which means the taste is so luxuriously far from being abstemious, you won’t even suspect it’s stealthy healthy.Angie Zoobkoff

A white bowl filled with Italian kale soup, topped with ciabatta and melted cheese, with a spoon resting on the side.

Italian Kale Soup | Zuppa Valdostana

5 / 3 votes
This Italian kale soup, or zuppa valdostana, is a lushly rustic soup made with cabbage and kale, layered with anchovies for umami, garlic-rubbed ciabatta, and loads of cheese.
Servings6 servings
Calories638 kcal
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time45 minutes


  • 10 1/2 cups store-bought or homemade chicken stock
  • Unsalted butter for the bowls
  • 1/2 large savoy cabbage
  • 1 bunch Tuscan kale Swiss chard, or fresh spinach
  • 3/4 loaf store-bought or homemade Italian ciabatta bread thinly sliced and toasted
  • 1 large clove garlic halved
  • 20 anchovies packed in oil drained (optional)
  • 8 ounces fontina coarsely grated
  • 8 ounces Gruyère coarsely grated
  • 3 1/2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano freshly grated
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  • Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Butter 6 large, ovenproof soup bowls.
  • In a large saucepan over high heat, warm the chicken stock.
  • Remove the leaves from the savoy cabbage, rinse them, trim any thick stems, and cut or tear the leaves into bite-size pieces. Do the same with the kale, chard, or spinach, although you probably won’t need to cut or tear spinach.
  • Rub the toasted ciabatta bread with the cut side of the garlic clove.
  • In the bottom of each bowl, place a handful each of cabbage and kale, spinach, or Swiss chard. On top of this, place 3 anchovy fillets, if using, and then a handful each fontina and Gruyère cheeses. Arrange 1 to 2 slices toasted ciabatta on top.

    ☞ TESTER TIP: Don’t freak about the anchovies. They completely dissolve and lend an invisible oomph to the soup.

  • Continue with more layers of cabbage and kale, spinach, or Swiss chard, anchovies, and fontina and Gruyère cheeses, finally topping it all with Parmigiano and black pepper.
  • Add enough stock to each bowl to fill 3/4 full. Place the bowls on a rimmed baking sheet or in a roasting pan.

    ☞ TESTER TIP: It’s tempting but don’t heap the bowls more then 3/4 full of ingredients or they may end up overflowing since the bread will expand as it absorbs the stock.

  • Bake until the soup has a golden, crunchy crust on top, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately.


How To Make Italian Kale Soup In One Large Dish

If you don’t have large ovenproof soup bowls, or are concerned yours aren’t big enough, you can assemble this in a single large casserole dish. Increase the baking time to 30 minutes and divvy into individual bowls after baking.
Four Seasons: A Year of Italian Food

Adapted From

Four Seasons: A Year of Italian Food

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 638 kcalCarbohydrates: 42 gProtein: 47 gFat: 33 gSaturated Fat: 18 gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3 gMonounsaturated Fat: 10 gCholesterol: 108 mgSodium: 1782 mgPotassium: 917 mgFiber: 6 gSugar: 4 gVitamin A: 6467 IUVitamin C: 77 mgCalcium: 988 mgIron: 3 mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2012 Manuela Darling-Gansser. Photo © 2012 Simon Griffiths. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This soup is a definite TC!!! My tasters and I absolutely loved the flavors. What’s not to like when you combine the nutty flavor of melted Gruyere and the mellow but slightly pungent flavor of Fontina. This is truly a meal in itself and a great cold weather treat.

The combination of ingredients worked together perfectly and required no final adjustments to the seasoning. The cabbage held a slight crunch, which was a nice contrast to the creaminess of the cheese.

I used a homemade stock which I believe is a must to get the great flavor this dish deserves. And a good quality ciabatta bread is also a must. I was a bit concerned whether all of the ingredients would fit into 6 ovenproof soup bowls and so I assembled all of the ingredients as per the recipe into a large casserole dish which I baked for about 30 minutes. Then I used a large spoon and ladled the soup among the bowls. We easily served 6 as a dinner entrée with this recipe.

I decided to make this soup on the only cold night we have had here in South Carolina and I plan to make it again once winter time comes. Usually I’m not a strong cheese fan but I still loved it all around and all the ingredients blended well with each other. This is indeed a full meal in itself.

If a teenager can make this anyone can, especially because most of you don’t get distracted and practice dancing while making a recipe.

This soup comes from the Italian Alps and reflects both the frugality of Italian peasant food while highlighting the importance of dairy and cheese to the Swiss and French who border to the north and west respectively. My Italian family hails from the south, Naples and Calabria, so I have little exposure to Italian food that comes from the Northern mountainous regions. I was completely bowled over by how the sum of these simple ingredients became an incredibly complex and satisfying meal. I am in love.

Prep was easy as could be and I think it took me 15 minutes to get everything in the bowls for the oven. My only complaint: now I have to go out and buy bigger ovenproof bowls so I can up my portion size—it was that good!

I did use Tuscan kale and cabbage. I also sprung for the anchovies and I highly recommend them- they add such great salt and umami to the dish which works beautifully with the three cheeses. I think they melted into the soup as I never got a full bite of one. I am going to serve this for friends soon along side a green salad with a mustardy vinaigrette. I fully expect a quiet table with nothing but slurping and sighing.

While this seems like more of a cold weather soup, it was perfect when we served it on a somewhat cool summer evening. We had all of the vegetables on hand, fresh from the garden, and had just purchased the cheeses for an upcoming party. [Guess we will be shopping for more cheese now].

I chose to use the savoy cabbage and chard. I decided to try the recipe without the anchovies for the first time.

I used some fairly large bowls, to make sure there was ample room for the cabbage, chard, cheese, bread, and plenty of the stock. I am glad I did this because I sliced the ciabatta a little bit thicker and was very liberal with the cheeses. The result was a creation of total cheesy goodness! My mouth waters every time I think about it. This is another to add to the list of comfort foods for the upcoming season.

Next time, I will try the anchovies. I am trying to figure out how to get more of that nice crunchy crust!

Originally published February 18, 2020

About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    This is a delicious and simple soup. I made a half-recipe and it satisfied 2 hungry people for a late lunch/early dinner. I used a small cast iron enamel ware casserole and rubbed the inside of the pot with garlic and as recipe indicated also rubbed the toasted ciabatta slices with garlic. Then I chopped the garlic and put it into a quart of chicken bone broth to heat while assembling the rest of the soup. I chose savoy cabbage and lacinato kale for the greens. The anchovies are a must in my view and added a wonderful depth and saltiness. Love this recipe!

  2. 5 stars
    This soup is wonderful. So good in fact, that my wife and I ate the whole thing! Not recommended. Invite friends!