Italian Cabbage Rolls

Cabbage rolls are a great "wintry" food. It seems to me that every culture has it's own version of the cabbage roll, and when I saw that Rachel Ray put out here out her own recipe for cabbage rolls on her show, I thought, well I should put out mine too! So here it is. It's the [bossy] Italian version.

I did a lot of research before putting this out, and there are a ton of ways to make cabbage rolls. Some people cook the cabbage ahead of time as well as cooking the meat ahead of time. Supposedly this is supposed to save you time, but I disagree with the notion. So, I don't cook my cabbage or meat ahead of time, and the whole lovely thing is baked in the oven to perfection.

This recipe is a bit time consuming because in addition to the cabbage rolls, I make my own homemade sauce. Because of the time element, it's the perfect weekend meal... Sunday comfort food--and a crowd pleaser!


Get your sauce going by slicing up one carrot, and one small onion. Sauté them in two tablespoons of olive oil. 


Add tomato paste, garlic, water, oregano, basil, cayenne, pepper, and salt 


And let it simmer away! (Covered) 

Also, if you are looking to save some time, you can use a couple of cans of store bought sauce, or you can make the sauce a day ahead of time. 


Take one head of cabbage and remove the leaves, taking out the middle part (which is hard and stuff) and be sure to wash them. Then set them aside until you need them 


You have already cooked some rice, and you have a nice 1/2 pound of ground meat, raw, which you have combined with breadcrumbs, salt, pepper,  and this parsley. 


Start filling your cabbage, one at a time, and rolling them as you go. 

Place them in your casserole dish. 


Rolling along.... 


Once you've used up all your cabbage and meat, begin pouring the sauce over your rolls.... mmmmmm 


Doesn't it look yummy?! 

Throw it in a 350 degree oven, covered, for 2 hours. 


By the time it comes out of the oven, it's an amazingly tender, yummy casserole dish full of goodness! 

Time: 3 hours | Serves 4 main courses | Difficulty Level: Medium 

You Will Need:

For the sauce: 
1 carrot, sliced 
1 small onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil 
2 small cans of tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups water
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
palmful of salt (more to taste, if you like) 
4 dashes cayenne pepper 
black pepper to taste 

For the rolls:
1/2 cup aborrio rice 
2 cups water 
1 tablespoon olive oil 
1 head of cabbage 
1/2 pound ground meat (I used venison, but you can use any ground meat, or a combination of meats) 
1/3 cup Italian breadcrumbs
salt and pepper 
Parmesan cheese (for sprinkling) 

Method:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees 

For the sauce: 

In a sauce or stock pan heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and carrot to the pot and allow them to cook until translucent, about 10 or so minutes. 

A note on the carrots: they cut the acidity in the tomato sauce, which is why I prefer them over conventional tricks like using sugar. Trust me, once you go carrot, you'll need go sugar again. 

Next, add the tomato paste, garlic, water, oregano, basil, salt and peppers to the pot. Stir and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat and cover. Simmer for about 45 minutes, or until you are ready to use it. If you are making the sauce ahead of time, let it simmer for 45 minutes, then remove it from the heat, allow it to cool to room temperature and then refrigerate. 

For the rolls: 

Meanwhile, start your rice. I used aborrio rice because that was what I had on hand, and I just loved what it added to the dish. 

Add 2 cups water and 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a medium saucepan. Bring it to a boil, and add your rice to the pot. Reduce heat and cover the rice. let it cook about 20 minutes or until fluffy and cooked through. Remove from heat and allow to cool. 

While the rice is cooking, you can prepare and wash your cabbage. Peel away the leaves of cabbage and as you do, wash them. Remove the center portion of the leaves, which is tough and discard. 

Once your rice is cool, combine the rice with the 1/2 pound of ground meat, breadcrumbs, parsley, and a few dashes of salt and pepper. 

Take your meat and rice mixture and begin spooning it into the individual leaves (see picture), rolling them up one at a time and placing them seam-side down so that they will stay together. Top your rolls with the sauce you made. Cover with foil and cook in the 350 degree oven for 2 hours. 

Serve with a salad! 

   

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