Krpice sa zeljem (Pasta with cabbages)

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“Krpice sa zeljem” have been an every-week meal in many North Croatian houses for decades. Originally, it was made with thick pasta and cabbages. The simple ingredients made this meal cheap and available for many poor farmer families. In richer families, it was served with fried meat, and poor families only had pasta with cabbages. These days this meal is usually made with store-bought pasta and as a side dish to other meals. It is a regular meal in many homes and is served as one of the favorite meals in hospitals and schools around the country.

Homemade or store-bought pasta

Cabbage pasta is a very easy meal to make, but it requires a bit of time to prepare, especially if you’re making pasta at home. Pasta is made out of flour, water, and salt, and rolled out into thick squares, which are then dried at room temperature. The making of the pasta requires lots of space and time, which is why most people make it with store-bought pasta.

The store-bought pasta, if prepared the right way, doesn’t taste much different than the homemade pasta, but it does save a lot of time. Any type of pasta can be used. I prefer farfalle or penne for my cabbage pasta. Both types blend well with cabbages, and turn into a sticky sweet cabbage blend, which is the most important for “krpice sa zeljem”. As long as you have pasta that can turn soft when cooked you’ll be fine.

Another thing different from earlier times is that before cabbages were fried on lard. Nowadays, people use oil for frying, since it is more available and every home has it. Although, with the rise in oil prices, lard is coming back to our meals. Right now in Croatia prices of lard and oil are the same(around 2,4€ per 1kg). This means that oil is very expensive compared to lard, especially since 1kg of lard will last you up to 4 times longer than the oil.


Today I made my “krpice sa zeljem” with store-bought pasta and oil. Sometimes I make my pasta, but this time I didn’t have the time, as I was making pickled beet the past couple of days.

To make this pasta you will need a fairly big cabbage head since fried cabbage reduces a lot. I usually buy a big cabbage head(up to 1kg/2.2lbs) and that’s enough for 4 plates of pasta. We like a lot of cabbages in the meal, so I use a lot.

Cabbages are cut into small squares and thrown into the hot oil. I use my big wok for frying, as it has a great frying surface, but this can be also done in a regular cooking pot. Cabbages are salted with a teaspoon of salt, to release their juice faster and left to fry with occasional string.

While the cabbages are frying we need to cook our pasta. I cook my pasta slightly differently than normal pasta is made, but over time I’ve discovered that this kind of pasta making works the best with cabbage pasta. I boil some water, add pasta, cover it with a lid, and remove it from the fire. This way I don’t actually cook the pasta on the stove, I let it slowly cook from the heat of the water. This way pasta will cook for 15-20 minutes, but it will come out perfectly cooked. Also, this way I can use the water from pasta on my fried cabbages.

Once cabbages are almost done, they will use all their juice and will need some water to continue frying without turning black. I use pasta water to water the cabbages. One ladle every couple of minutes is enough to ensure the cabbages don’t turn black. A few minutes before the cabbages are done I add salt, pepper, garlic, and a mixture of powdered carrots, parsley, parsnip, and celery.

When the cabbages have been fried all that’s left to do is to add pasta inside. Pasta is mixed with cabbages and left on low heat for a minute or two to blend the pasta and cabbages. The pasta should start falling apart while the mixture is stirred. Once the pasta is done it can be eaten immediately.

What to eat with “krpice sa zeljem”

I serve my pasta with fresh tomato, pepper, and cucamelon salad. It can be served with any kind of salad and with any kind of fried meat.

“Krpice sa zeljem” is a filling meal and won’t require a large number of side dishes or meat with them. For me, they are more than enough. Sometimes, I make soup before the pasta, but usually, we eat it as the main dish.

The dish can be eaten as a leftover meal, it only needs to be heated up in the microwave or you can add a couple of spoons of water and heat it on the stove again. Cold pasta usually turns into a sticky mass which although tasteful, is very hard to eat. Heated pasta will return to its perfect form and give us the same great taste.

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2 responses to “Krpice sa zeljem (Pasta with cabbages)”

  1. Mal Avatar

    Pasta is only a recent introduction in Scotland but we do have cabbage and potato cooked in a similar way with lard Rumbledethumps. Bubble and Squeak is a similar fried English version. The Irish add soring onions and milk or even cream and call it Colcannon. But all with potato not pasta

    1. rollinggarden Avatar

      Oh yes, we have something similar to Rumbledethumps and Bubble and Squeak here too. North Croatian meals are mostly based on flour(pasta or bread), potatoes, cabbages, onions, and meat preserved in lard. You can tell that winters here can be a bit cold. 🙂

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