Stuffed Cabbage

St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner, which means there will be some pretty good deals on cabbage and potatoes in your local supermarket in the next week or two.

For centuries, potatoes and cabbage have been a popular Irish fare. There are a couple of Irish dishes that immediately come to mind when I think about those vegetables. First, there’s corned beef and cabbage, which is the traditional centerpiece for a St. Patrick’s Day dinner. And then there is colcannon, a classic dish that contains mashed potatoes and cabbage or kale.

But the Irish don’t hold exclusive rights to those veggies, as a recipe courtesy Mario Batali’s “Molto Batali” (ecco, 2011) demonstrates.

Batali, who is the owner of Babbo, Lupa, Otto and other renowned restaurants, offers up a stuffed cabbage recipe with an Italian inflection. It has its roots in the region of Liguria, on the northwest coast near the border of France, where they prepare stuffed cabbage with a vegetarian stuffing, including potatoes.

I can’t wait to try this recipe, since cabbage and potatoes are two my favorite vegetables. And you can be sure it will be before St. Pat’s Day!

Stuffed Cabbage
1 large green cabbage (3 to 4 pounds)
Salt
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium red onions, cut into ½-inch dice
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 pound new potatoes, scrubbed and cut into ¼-inch dice
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup fresh ricotta, drained
About 1 cup finely slivered fresh basil leaves
¼ cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 cups basic tomato sauce
½ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Bring 8 quarts of water to a boil in a large pasta pot. Fill a large bowl with cool water, and place it nearby.
Remove the tough outer leaves of the cabbage, finely chop them, and set them aside. Carefully cut out the cabbage core with a sharp knife.
Add 2 tablespoons salt to the boiling water. Drop the whole cabbage into the water and cook until it is tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Then transfer the cabbage to the bowl of cool water and let it cool.
When the cabbage is cool enough to handle, drain it. Carefully remove the whole leaves from the head, and set aside about a dozen of the best and largest. Chop the remaining cabbage into ¼-inch pieces and set them aside.
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium heat until just smoking. Add the onions, garlic, potatoes, and the raw and cooked chopped cabbage. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are very soft, 12 to 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and allow to cool.
When the potato mixture is cool, add the ricotta, basil and parsley, and fold together. Place a scant ½ cup of the cabbage/ricotta mixture in the center of each whole cabbage leaf. Fold each leaf around the filling like a burrito, and secure it with a toothpick.
Pour the tomato sauce into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, and arrange the cabbage packets on top. Cover the dish tightly with foil, and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove the foil, sprinkle the cabbage packets with the grated pecorino, and bake for another 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Yield: 12 rolls, which serves 8 to 10 as a side dish or as an antipasto.

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