The Power of Suggestion and... Cabbage Bundles!

3 minute read

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Funny how sometimes all it takes is hearing someone talk about an ingredient to make you crave that very ingredient, and crave it NOW. That's what happened to me today when I was on the phone with my friend Pino Golia in Italy. Pino is the own of a small, charming hotel and restaurant called Picchio Nero in Terranova di Pollino, Basilicata. We were discussing the menu for our hands-on cooking class and dinner featuring traditional handmade pastas from Basilicata, which will be one of the highlights of our fall culinary tour to Sicily & Beyond (the Beyond parts of the tour are Calabria and Basilicata, two lesser-known regions in Italy's south that have unbelieveable food and breathtaking landscapes).

Pino was describing a dish he makes with Savoy cabbage (adorably called cavolo cappuccio, or hooded cabbage, in Italian) and there I was: in full-fledged Savoy cabbage-craving mode. So what did I do? I cradled the phone to my ear as I pulled out a large, leafy head of Savoy cabbage from the fridge, and set about making the stuffed cabbage bundles below.

The bundles are hearty enough to serve as a main course; all you need is some good bread or perhaps a side of roasted potatoes alongside. Leftovers are excellent dusted with Pecorino and popped under the broiler for a few minutes to get a gorgeous brown, crispy cap.


Roasted Cabbage Bundles Stuffed with Pork and Ricotta

 

Unlike most stuffed cabbage dishes, these bundles are not at all heavy or rich; they are quite light, thanks to the addition of fresh Ricotta to the stuffing. I’ve never been a big fan of stuffed cabbage in tomato sauce, so I cook these bundles with a splash of homemade chicken or beef broth and plenty of sliced onions for sweetness.

Roasting the bundles covered for the majority of the cooking time keeps them nice and moist; uncovering them and raising the oven temperature in the last few minutes gives them a glorious browned top and crunchy exterior that contrasts nicely with the tender inner layers.

Serve 3 bundles per person as a main course, or just one per person as a palate-teaser at the start of a meal. To make prep easier, you can assemble the bundles a day before roasting; pour on the broth just before slipping them into the oven.

The bundles can easily be made vegetarian; omit the pork and add an equivalent amount of Ricotta plus 15 grams (0.5 ounces) of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano instead.


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Serves 2 as a main course, 6 as an appetizer

  • 5 milliliters (1 teaspoon) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 large Savoy cabbage leaves (preferably outer leaves)
  • 115 grams (4 ounces) fresh whole-milk Ricotta
  • 115 grams (4 ounces) lean ground pork shoulder
  • 30 grams (1 ounce) freshly grated Pecorino Romano
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced Italian parsley
  • ½ teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon chili flakes
  • 125 milliliters (½ cup) chicken or beef broth

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  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees convection or 400 degrees regular.
  2. Brush a baking baking dish with the olive oil. Place the onion in the dish. Season with ¼ teaspoon of the salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper; toss well and set aside.
  3. Bring 2 quarts (2 liters) of water to a boil. Add the cabbage leaves; cook 3 minutes, or until the cabbage leaves are tender and pliable. Rinse under cool water and drain well, then gently blot dry.
  4. In a bowl, stir together the Ricotta, pork, Pecorino, garlic, parsley, fennel seeds, chili, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon of pepper.
  5. Arrange the cabbage leaves in a single layer on a large sheet of parchment paper on the counter. Place one-sixth of the pork mixture on the lower part of each cabbage leaf. Wrap each leaf around the filling, first bringing up the bottom, then folding over each of the two sides.
  6. Roll each into a neat bundle. Place seam side down in the dish on top of the onions. Pour in the broth and season the top with the remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt.
  7. Cover with aluminum foil or parchment paper and roast in the preheated oven 30 minutes.
  8. Uncover, raise the oven temperature to 425 degrees convection or 450 degrees regular, and roast until golden brown and crisped on top, about 5 more minutes.
  9. Serve hot, spooning the pan juices and onions over the cabbage bundles.
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pork ricotta cabbage