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Stuffed cabbage rolls are Rach's healthy-ish comfort meal for cold days.
Rach's Pro Tip: For the filling, she uses half beef and half veal OR beef, pork and veal — but ground turkey OR all ground pork OR 1½ pounds plant-based meat substitute are all delicious choices, too.
- 1 large cabbage
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 tablespoon Calabrian chili paste, or 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- One 28-ounce can diced or crushed tomatoes
- 1 jar passata, tomato puree
- 2 pounds ground meat (Rach likes half beef and half veal or beef, pork and veal)
- 1 cup white rice
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup water
- 1 tablespoon paprika (a palmful)
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano (a palmful)
- 1 tablespoon fennel seed, or 2 teaspoons fennel pollen (optional)
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice, or ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (about 2 ounces)
- Finely chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
Trim outer leaf or two and core of cabbage and place in pot, cover with water and bring to boil, add salt and boil 15 minutes, cool. Carefully peel 16 leaves and use kitchen scissors or paring knife to trim the tough bottom of the vein of each large leaf of cabbage. Chop or shred core and save for a warm slaw or a soup. Let the cabbage drain well on a kitchen towel as you separate leaves, then pile the 16 trimmed or stemmed leaves and move them to a work surface.
Meanwhile, in a pot or Dutch oven, heat EVOO, 3 turns of the pan, add onions, season with salt and pepper, soften 5 minutes, add garlic, stir a minute, add about ½ cup water and let it absorb. Remove half the mixture and place in large mixing bowl to cool. To the remaining onions and garlic, add Calabrian paste or red pepper and tomato paste, stir to combine, add tomatoes and passata, bring to a bubble, reduce heat to simmer and cook 30 minutes.
To the cool onions and garlic, add the ground meat (or plant-based protein), salt and pepper, rice, egg, water, paprika, oregano, fennel (if using), Worcestershire, allspice or cloves, and grated cheese. Mix well. Score the meat into 16 potions. Place a portion on each leaf, tuck in sides and roll.
Preheat oven to 400˚F with rack at center.
Line a large casserole with about ⅓ sauce and fill pan with cabbage rolls. Top with remaining sauce and cover pan tightly with foil. Bake 90 minutes until cooked through. Top with chopped parsley.