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Romanian Cabbage Rolls

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200 gr Minced Meat (Beef)
400 gr Minced Meat (Pork)
75 gr Basmati Rice
2 large Onion
450 gr Can Diced Tomatoes
2 tsp Tomato Paste
250 gr Bacon
1/2 cup chopped + 4-5 strings Dill Fresh
1/2 tbsp Thyme
1 tbsp Paprika Powder Sweet
o cover the rolls Water
to taste Salt
to taste Black Pepper
3 tbsp Sunflower Oil
1 kg White Cabbage
3 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tbsp Salt

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Romanian Cabbage Rolls

  • 5 h
  • Serves 8
  • Medium


Today is the National Day of Romania and nothing says “Happy Anniversary” to all Romanians like a big portion of these goodies: Cabbage Rolls Stuffed with Mince and Rice served with Sour Cream. This is that kind of food that is always present at our important meals and we love them so much, that we even love to serve this at weddings.


In Romanian we call them “Sarmale” and the etymology of the word comes from Turkish, where sarmak means to wrap or to roll. In the Eastern Europe this dish is made with sour cabbage and I have to admit that it gives this dish a very special taste, but since I was way too lazy to pickle cabbage this year and in the Netherlands is almost impossible to find a whole one (they cut their sauerkraut very finely) I decided to go for “sweet” cabbage.

And since this is such an important dish in Romania, you can imagine that every family has it’s own recipe. I love mine filled with more meat than rice, covered in tomato sauce and topped with bacon. Serve, of course, with polenta and sour cream. Heaps of it! It sounds wonderful doesn’t it? However, I have to let you know upfront that this dish takes a while to cook. It’s not a quick meal to fix, but don’t forget that, as we say in Romania “Love comes from the heart, but passes through the stomach”.

Happy Aniversary Romanians!

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Using a knife, remove the core of the cabbage. Be very careful and gentle. Bring approx. 4 liters of water to boil in a big pan, together with the salt and the vinegar. Submerge the cabbage in the hot water, with the core side up, and cook for about 10 minutes, until the outer layers are soft and easy to remove. Turn the cabbage and using a wooden spoon remove the layers, one by one, until you remain with the center leaves, that are too small to roll. Let everything cool off and prepare the filling.


The Filling

Chop the onions fine, and cook them in oil until soft. Stir in paprika and tomato paste and remove from heat. Mix in the meat and the rice and yes, taste. Now add salt and pepper and stir until well combined.


Rolling, rolling, rolling

Trim the hard stem of the cabbage leaves to make it easier to roll. Place 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of mixture on the center of the bottom of each leaf. Fold in one side and start rolling the cabbage leaf to create a roll. Tuck in with your finger the other side to create a classic Romanian shape (see in photo all those cute ends). You can also fold in both sides from the beginning if you think it is too much work or if you want to save up some time. Place the rolls on a big plate and prepare the pan.


Prepare the pan

You will need a big Dutch oven for this or a big clay pot. Chop the cabbage core that you boiled and arrange half of it on the bottom. Add a few spoons of diced tomatoes, 2 dill strings and on top of that the first layer of cabbage rolls. On top add half of the bacon and again a few tbsp of tomatoes. Repeat and cover the last layer with the rest of the tomatoes, dill and bacon. Add water until almost covered and cook on very low fire for 4 hours, on the stove or in the oven.



* The pan has to be filled 2/3 because the cabbage rolls puff because of the rice. I like to make only 2 layers, but it is all depending what kind of pot you have.
* Be sure to add enough salt to your dish.
* Use fresh dill, because this will give it a very special taste.
* Check the liquid in the pan a few times. You want the liquid to reduce, but you don't want the bottom burnt. When the liquid id gone you will hear them sizzling. If your liquid runs out too fast add some more, and reduce the fire.
* Roll tight so you don't end up with a tray of mince mixed with cabbage.
* Use fatty pork mince, because after the liquid runs out the fat will caramelize the top and bottom and will add a lot of taste.
* Serve hot with cold sour cream.
* Don't forget to have fun while making this.


I am Adriana and I love food, as you can probably see from what I cook. I like to bake and I like to experiment with new tastes, and my 2016 resolution is to try to cook healthy and special meals every day.

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