The Romanian Cabbage Rolls- Sarmale – are one of the most delicious dishes that Romanian people prepare for family gatherings and especially for holidays. During the summer they are made with green cabbages and during the winter they can be made with sour cream as well. Cabbage leaves are stuffed with a ground meat, rice and herbs mixture and then cooked with tomato juice and some smoked meat for extra flavor. Fresh dill and thyme are the most used herbs in preparing this dish. Traditionally, cabbage rolls are served warm with polenta and sour cream and I must say they are simply amazing.
The recipe I share with you is from my mother, she has been doing the best cabbage rolls ever :). Though the recipe is not difficult it does take some time to prepare but definitely worth all the effort. To make things easier cabbage leaves can be prepared in advance and refrigerated until ready to use. Cabbage rolls keep well refrigerated for up to a week and can be frozen as well. They are healthy, delicious and simply addictive. Try them out, you will love them.
Romanian Cabbage Rolls
For preparing the cabbage leaves
- 2 medium cabbages
- 1 tbsp (15g) salt
- 4-5 thyme sprigs
- 2 fresh dill sprigs
- hot boiling water
- 4 medium onions (500g) , chopped
- 5 tbsp (70g) vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup (65g) tomato paste
- 2 tsp (4g) paprika
- 1 1/4 (250g) long grain rice , rinsed and drained
- 1 pound (450g) ground pork
- 1/4 pound (110g) ground beef
- 1/2 cup (25g) fresh dill , chopped
- 1 ½ tsp (7g) salt
- 1 ½ tsp (5g) ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp (3g) salt
- 2 tbsp fresh dill , chopped
- freshly ground black pepper
For adding on top of the rolls
- 14 oz (400g) can diced tomatoes
- 1/2 pound (230g) smoked pork ribs , cut in smaller pieces
- Hot salted water
- Remove core from cabbages. In a large pot bring water to a boil, enough to almost cover the cabbage. Add salt, few thyme and dill sprigs. Immerse cabbage in boiling water with core side down. Cook over medium-high heat 5 to 10 minutes. Turn and gently remove leaves. When the leaves are tender and flexible remove and let them cool.
- Prepare the filling. In a frying pan heat oil over medium high heat. Cook onion until soft and glossy. Stir in paprika and tomato paste and remove from heat. Let cool slightly. Add rice, ground pork and beef, dill, salt and pepper. Stir until well combined.
- Trim the thick veins from cabbage leaves for easier rolling and set aside. Cut leaves in smaller pieces if too large. Chop any leftover cabbage (middle part) and the veins and place in a bowl. Mix chopped cabbage with dill, salt and pepper. Place few thyme sprigs on the bottom of a large pot, place half of the chopped cabbage and few dill sprigs on top.
- Start making the cabbage rolls. Place 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of mixture on the center of the bottom of each leaf. Fold in the sides and start rolling the cabbage leaf to create a roll.Place on the prepared pot and continue until all the filling is done. Place the other half of chopped cabbage over the top of the rolls.
- Add diced tomatoes on top, arrange the pork ribs and pour hot salted water until the cabbage rolls are almost covered with liquid.
- Cover the pot and cook at medium heat until they start to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour.
- Serve cabbage rolls warm with sour cream and polenta.