Italian Stuffed Cabbages

August 31, 2017

Need a new recipe for your back to school repertoire?

This recipe had called to me ever since I saw it on SmittenKitchen this summer. And as most of you know, we’ve been a little busy growing humans at our house. Just standing on my feet for very long in the kitchen is hard, and my cooking dreams have been curtailed by a lack of appetite, energy, and plenty of food aversions.

But I finally got inspired to make this thanks to the cabbages my daughter planted (i.e. took cabbage plants home from school and as they were wilting on our window sill in June, decided to stick them in the garden). I had to do something special with these beauties, right? (By the way, I am guessing the chances you have a head of cabbage just siting in your backyard are very low. We don’t normally have them either, and I am not even sure what kind of cabbage it is, but thanks school!)

Rest easy that the recipe calls for savoy cabbage leaves, which you can find at most grocery stores and I think would be even better, since the leaves are softer and easier for kids to bite through. I didn’t mind these at all and think you could use any cabbage leaves, but my youngest didn’t like the how thick and hearty these were, but they loved the insides. I was glad I made extra since the leftovers seemed to get better the next day.

The recipe calls for sweet pork sausages, and even though Smitten Kitchen says she omitted the fresh herbs and still loved them, I had them on my deck so I used them and I felt like they really added to the dish.

Assembly is super easy, and I love her suggestion of wrapping them with a toothpick (you can roll them like egg rolls too).

And the best thing about this dish is the very simple, pure tomato sauce. I ended up doubling it after this photo was taken because I had doubled the cabbages and I suspected the cabbage-bite-to-tomato-sauce ratio was important. (Turns out I was right).

So if you find yourself looking for a new dinner to add to your school night rotation, this one is a keeper. I served them with mashed potatoes (see the yummy recipe for some below) but rice, pasta, or polenta all seem like great sides to soak up the garlic-tomato sauce.

Happy Eating! xoxo Katie

Italian Stuffed Cabbages – (printer version here):

Makes approximately 12 cabbage rolls; a serving can range from 2 (petitely) to 3 per person. Serve with mashed potatoes (Deb at SmittenKitchen recommends these.

1 large savoy cabbage
7-ounce (200-gram) hunk of bread (see above), crusts cut away, torn into small scraps (you’ll have about 3 loose cups of scraps)
2/3 cup (approximately 150 ml) whole milk
14 ounces (400 grams) or approximately 4 plain pork sausages (I used sweet — i.e. non-spicy — Italian), casings removed
1 small sprig of sage, finely chopped
1 small sprig of rosemary, finely chopped
2 tablespoons grated parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 28-ounce can peeled plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced

Prepare cabbage: Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Discard any messy or broken outer cabbage leaves and carefully peel 12 nice, large leaves. (I think the cabbage can tell if you’re in a rush, and will tear more easily. Work carefully. That said, a torn leaf will hardly ruin the dish.) Blanch leaves for about 30 seconds to 1 minute (you can do a few at at time), until wilted, and spread out on towels so that they dry and cool.

Make filling: Place bread scraps in bottom of large bowl and pour milk over. Let sit for a few minutes, then mash it gently with a spoon until something close to a paste forms. Mix with sausage meat, herbs, parmesan and a pinch or two of salt and black pepper; I find this easiest with a fork or bare hands.

Make the cabbage rolls: Lay your first cabbage leaf on the counter. If it doesn’t want to lay flat, pare away some of the thickest stalk (with a paring knife or vegetable peeler) to make it easier. Form some of the filling mixture into a golf ball-sized round. Wrap cabbage leaf around it (see Note about shape up top) and pin at the top with a toothpick. Repeat with remaining leaves and mixture.

Make the sauce: To prepare your tomatoes, either break them up with your hands (for bigger chunks), run them through a food mill or roughly chop them right in their can with scissors (what I did here). In a heavy saute pan with a lid or a medium (5 to 6-quart) Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for about 30 seconds (just until golden, not a moment longer) then add the tomatoes, bringing the sauce to a gently boil. Season with salt if needed. Add cabbage packages, arranging them carefully in the pan so they all fit, cover the pot and gently simmer them for 25 minutes. Remove the toothpicks and carefully turn the rolls over, cooking them for another 25. Remove the lid and simmer for another 10 minutes to cook off some of the wetness. They’re all cooked now, but if you can rest them for another 15 minutes before eating them, the flavors settle and they become even better.

Recipe originally found on


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