This is Mario Batali’s stuffed cabbage. Ligurian style. Which means it’s from a coastal region of North Western Italy. There are so many amazing italian dishes that don’t have meat, pizza dough or pasta. This is one of them.
Here’s a great place to watch how it’s made and the official recipe.
I’ve made it a dozen times by now, so I actually have a system that works really well for real life, since TV cooking is all an illusion.
I pay attention to my mise en place, i.e. my preparation and set up. I start cleaning up immediately as well, since you need to use so many things. If I do everything before I start cooking, it cuts out some time and allows me to have a smooth cooking experience, since this is slightly ambitious and takes about an hour to prepare… and then an additional 45 minutes to cook. Be prepared to invest 2 hours if you’ve never done it before, including cleanup.
First, I dice everything I need to dice: the onion, garlic and potato. I’ve added a lovely photo of my reaction to cutting onions. I set up the stove with the things I will need: the big pot, saute pan, and bowl of cold water. Then, I loosen the core from the cabbage – but leave it in, so it’s easy to take out of the boiling water [see picture]. Finally, I prepare the baking dish by pouring in the tomato sauce, and put all my seasonings in one place for when I need them. These things allow me to work from start to finish without having to stop and lose my place.
So, the recipe, adapted from MB version. I make changes based on what’s available at the store or what I’ve already got.
1 large cabbage [green, smooth]
1/2 red onion. chopped
1 bag small medley potatoes. The original recipes calls for “new potatoes” but I can never find them, so I use a medley. It’s colorful and comes with the right amount. Chop them into 1/4 cubes.
4-6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup ricotta cheese
Salt, Pepper, Parsley, Basil [fresh or dry is fine]
Parmesan cheese, Shredded
Boil the water. Once boiling put the whole cabbage in for no longer than 6 minutes. Between 5-6 works best. You want the cabbage to hold it’s shape and strength, and be able to bend without tearing. After 6 minutes, take out of the boiling water and put in a bowl of cold water. Let sit.
In a saute pan, cook the onion, garlic and potato for 15 minutes, until things have softened. I add some seasoning here. It doesn’t matter when, just do it before you stuff the cabbage. Once the 15 minutes are up, take the pan off the stove and let cool off.
I do something different than the MB recipe here. I don’t take the outer layers of the cabbage off and chop them into the potato. I wait until after I’ve got at least 6 good pieces of cabbage to stuff, and then take some of the inner layers and chop into the mixture. One time I took the outer two layers and added them, and I was only left with 4 good pieces of wrapping and an abundance of filler. Every cabbage you buy is different so it’s hard to tell how many pieces it will have.
Mix the ricotta in with the potato mixture.
Dry off the cabbage pieces – and get as many as you can. I usually do 6 – because that is how many perfectly fit in my baking dish. Fill each with 1/6 of the filling. I like to use up what I’ve made… so I divide by how many good pieces of cabbage I have. 1/8 of the filling if you have 8 pockets, etc.
The best way to wrap the pockets is by pushing the hard end of the cabbage down over the filling, as you tuck the rest of the edges over it. Places the pockets with the openings down on top of the tomato sauce.
Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, covered tightly with foil. Take out, uncover, sprinkle on shredded parmesan and then put back in the oven for 10 more minutes uncovered. Take out, cool, eat.