Cavolo Ripieno per Simhà Torà

Stuffed Cabbage

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Serves

    4 to 6

Appears in

Stuffed cabbage is not just an Ashkenazic, or even American Jewish deli, specialty. This particular recipe is adapted from two different Italian Jewish recipes, both of which are traditionally served on Simchat Torah, which falls at the end of Sukkot and joyfully celebrates the Torah. One recipe is from Mira Sacerdoti and the other is my interpretation of a recipe found in Cia Eramo’s La cucina mantovana. Eramo braises the cabbage whole, slipping the filling between the leaves. Mira Sacerdoti stuffs the individual cabbage leaves and calls them rotoli de verze, a Jewish version of the Levantine Sephardic dolma. Thrifty Italian Jews readily embraced such a dish, which makes something delicious and special out of a few humble ingredients. This same filling can be stuffed into eggplant, peppers, and zucchini.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 large onion, grated or finely chopped
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs or half-cooked white rice
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 large head green cabbage, 1½ to 2 pounds (12 to 18 large leaves)
  • 3 to 4 cups meat broth, or as needed

Method

In a bowl, combine the ground beef, onion, bread crumbs or rice, egg, salt, and pepper. Mix well and set aside.

To serve a whole cabbage, carefully spread the leaves and spoon some of the meat mixture down near the bottom between each layer of leaves. Reform the leaves into the head and tie with kitchen string to keep the filling in place. Place the cabbage in a large pot. Add the broth to cover and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cover and simmer until tender, about 1½ hours. (Alternatively, place the covered pot in an oven preheated to 300 degrees F for 1½ hours.)

To make individual cabbage rolls, bring a large pot two-thirds full of salted water to a boil. Cut out the core of the cabbage with a sharp knife. Slip the cabbage into the water, reduce the heat so the water simmers, and cook until the cabbage leaves soften, about 10 minutes. Drain carefully and remove the outer large leaves. You should have 12 to 18 leaves. Reserve the remaining cabbage for another use.

Spread out the cabbage leaves on a work surface. Place a few tablespoons of the meat mixture on the center of a leaf, fold over the top, then fold in the other 3 sides, to make a dolmalike package. Secure closed with toothpicks. Repeat until all the meat mixture is used. Place the packages, seam side down, in a large pot. Add the broth to cover and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cover and simmer until tender, 1 to 1½ hours. (Alternatively, place the covered pot in an oven preheated to 300 degrees F for 1 to 1½ hours.) Transfer the whole cabbage or the cabbage rolls, toothpicks removed, to a warmed platter. Cut the whole cabbage into wedges. Serve hot.

Variation

Sauté 1 large onion, chopped, in olive oil until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the onion and 2 cups chopped canned plum tomatoes to the broth for braising the cabbage rolls.