I decided to make a stuffed cabbage...with my own twist. Now, I love stuffed cabbage in it's true version, but today I thought...let's give it some italian flavors and see what happens. Like my grandma always said...."Of course its gonna be good....there's all good stuff in there"!! So, lets give it a shot. I decided to throw in some pancetta, garlic, basil and cheese. All amazing italian flavors....it's a winner!!
1 LARGE HEAD OF CABBAGE OR 2 SMALL ***MARINARA SAUCE 2 CUPS CHICKEN BROTH 1 LB GROUND BEEF (80/20) 1 LB GROUND VEAL 1 CUP UNCOOKED RICE 4 OZ OF PANCETTA DICED 1 SMALL ONION CHOPPED 4 CLOVES GARLIC CHOPPED HANDFUL OF FRESH BASIL CHOPPED 1/4 CUP GRATED PARMESAN CHEESE 2 TBLSP OLIVE OIL SALT & PEPPER
Start by coring the head of cabbage. You can either put it in a large pot of boiling water for 10 minutes or use a steamer basket in the same pot for about 20. I prefer to steam. I feel like it retains more flavors this way, it just takes a few minutes more. If you turn it upside down in the pot....the middle will fit and steam perfectly. When it is done, remove it from the pot and let it cool.
In the meantime, you can put the prepared Marinara sauce in a medium saucepan with the 2 cups of chicken stock to thin it out. But add slowly, you don't have to add it all if it gets too thin.
In a saute pan, heat the oil. Add the chopped onion, diced pancetta and garlic. Season with salt & pepper. Saute just until they start to get soft and add the basil. Set aside to cool when done.
In a bowl add the meat, uncooked rice, 1 1/2 cup prepared sauce, onion mixture, grated cheese and another pinch of pepper only. There is plenty of salt in the rest of the ingredients that we can skip in here. Get your hands in there and mix it all together. It may be a messy job but definitely the bast way to do it!!
So now, your filling is ready to go. Your sauce is ready to go. All you have left to do is roll them up. Work with the cabbage when it is cooled. Peel back one leaf at a time slowly so they do not tear.
Shred the inside or unused section and put in the bottom of a roasting pan. This will be a nice bed for your cabbage rolls to rest and cook on.
Cut the rib section out of each leaf. put about 3 tablespoons of filling in the center of each.
Bring both sides of the cut out section together and bring it up and over the top of the meat.
Start rolling forward bringing the sides in as you go. The cabbage leaves are actually very easy to work with. They are tough enough that they don't tear easily, yet soft enough to roll simply. After one or two, you will be and expert cabbage roller!!
Great!! Now continue rolling the rest and lay them all in their bed!! You can tuck them all in tightly, it will keep them all together when they cook.
Ladle the sauce over the top generously. It will get all through the shredded cabbage under your rolls which will be delicious also. Bake at 350 degrees for about an 1 1/2 hours.
I really hope you enjoy this dish. It was actually the first time I've used these exact ingredients.....haha. But it turned out amazing. Everyone loved it. I just wanted to add some more flavors to your basic stuffed cabbage and it worked out beautifully. Some day I will have my mom make us the true Italian version of my favorite cabbage dish. It is cabbage with hot sausage, pork tenderloin and ribs. It is amazing!! Enjoy dinner!!