Cabbage Rolls in Tomato Sauce

This is how we eat cabbage in our house when our CSA decides to give us head after head of this smelly veggie. Lots and lots of cabbage rolls. Good thing they’re incredibly delicious and make great leftovers. My recipe does not involve blanching the leaves because 1) I channel my grandma’s spirit and am appalled at the amount of water you waste when you blanch 2) ain’ nobody got time for that. Instead, I use the pot that’s already all heated up with onions in it, stick in the cabbage, and put a lid on it. Steam those babies until they’re pliable, but don’t forget to remove the tough rib of each leaf before you steam it.

1 large onion, diced
4 cups crushed tomatoes
8 cabbage leaves, tough rib removed

For the filling:
A piece of bread, any kind, torn up
3 tbsp milk
1egg
1/2 lb ground beef
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt
Pepper

To start, heat some oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat. Toss in the onions (reserving 1/4 cup for the filling) and season with salt. After you can see some brown on the onions, add a 1/4 cup water and the cabbage leaves and put a lid on the pot. Steam the leaves for five minutes or so. Remove the wilted leaves and set aside. Cook the onions until the excess water is evaporated, and continue to cook on low while you assemble the rolls. Those onions are going to be gorgeous by the time they see the sauce.

To make the filling – Put the bread in a medium bowl and add the milk. Let it soak for a minute until it’s all soggy. Add in the meat, egg, garlic, reserved onions, salt and pepper and mix it up. Smell it. I’m serious. I never knew when my raw meat is properly salted until I watched Marcella Hazan do it (check out 4:16 for the clip but watch the whole thing for some nonna level skill) The whole smelling thing takes a little practice, but I love this next level relationship with food – instead of tasting things over and over, just smell it! Take the wilted cabbage leaves and throw a spoonful of meat in the middle. Roll it up however makes sense to you. Burrito style, taco style, haphazard style, whatever works with the shape (and state) your cabbage leaves are in. Nestle the rolls in the sauce and cover the pot, but leave the lid slightly ajar. We want some of the moisture to evaporate so those tomatoes will taste all savory instead of waterlogged. Cook for an hour on medium-low heat. Serve over pasta!

Take the wilted cabbage leaves and throw a spoonful of meat in the middle. Roll it up however makes sense to you. Burrito style, taco style, haphazard style, whatever works with the shape (and state) your cabbage leaves are in. Nestle the rolls in the sauce and cover the pot, but leave the lid slightly ajar. We want some of the moisture to evaporate so those tomatoes will taste all savory instead of waterlogged. Cook for an hour on medium-low heat. Serve over pasta!

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