I planned to make cabbage rolls for dinner, but when it came time to start cooking, I couldn’t get excited about the process of filling and rolling each leaf of cabbage into tidy parcels. The idea to make one giant stuffed cabbage struck me and I went with it, bigger is better right?
I put a pot of rice on the stove to cook, began boiling the cabbage leaves until tender and went to my garden to snip some rosemary, sage and thyme. I prepared a simple beef and pork ragu and a homemade tomato sauce to round-out the layers of my torta.
When it came out of the oven and I inverted it on a plate, it resembled a cake. If looks could kill the final presentation was stunning! A beautiful cabbage torta stuffed with alternating layers of ragu, parmesan, rice and cabbage, topped with a vibrant tomato sauce.The Torta di Cavolo Ripieno makes for a stunning main course, whether it’s for a dinner party or a weeknight family meal. It’s not too difficult to prepare and it comes together much faster than wrapping up individual cabbage rolls –– it’s comfort food disguised as a masterpiece!
Torta di Cavalo Ripieno (Stuffed Cabbage Cake)
1 head of cabbage (I used a large flat head, although Savoy works too)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 chili pepper, chopped
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
Splash of milk
1/2 cup red wine
fresh herbs to taste, rosemary, sage and thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup rice, cooked
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Ingredients for the tomato sauce:
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes
For the Cabbage: Rinse and core the cabbage then place in a large pot and bring to boil just until the leaves are tender and begin to pull away from one another 10-15 minutes. Once tender, drain the cabbage and, once cool enough, cut away the stem. Reserve the best six leaves for the outer layer of the torta.
For The Rice: Meanwhile cook the rice and set aside.
For the Meat Filling: In a large Dutch oven or skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat, add the ground meats and brown. Once browned, remove the meat to a bowl. In the same Dutch oven or skillet, add the chopped onion and saute until translucent followed by the carrots, celery and garlic. Add the herbs and saute about 5 minutes. Add the meat back to the pot and add the milk, simmer until combined. Next, add the red wine and simmer until juices cook off, another minute or two.
For the Tomato Sauce: In a saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat, add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about a minute or two. Add the can of San Marzano tomatoes crushing them with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil. (Without rinsing the can which the tomatoes were in, add a bit of water about 1/4 of the can using up the leftover tomato pulp from the sides and bottom of the can, and add to the sauce) Set to simmer and cook at least 30 minutes to 1 hour. Set aside.
Grease the bottom and sides of a souffle pan and put the nicest leaf of cabbage at the bottom of the dish, then fan out the other six leaves to cover the sides of the dish, you will overlap them and allow for them to hang over the edges of your dish.
Begin layering, just as would for a lasagna. Make a layer with the meat, a bit of rice, some tomato sauce and freshly grated Parmesan cheese, pressing down firmly before adding a cabbage leaf and repeating the layers until you run out of filling. You should have enough for three layers, ending with a cabbage leaf on top. Tuck this final leaf into the sides of the dish, before folding the overhanging cabbage leaves to finish the dish.
*Be sure to save enough tomato sauce to top the torta with after it’s done baking
Drizzle with olive oil and bake at 350F for 40 minutes. Let it rest outside of the oven for about 5 minutes before inverting it over a serving plate. Top with olive oil, salt, pepper, and the reserved tomato sauce and more grated Parmesan. Slice and serve.