Easy recipe for stuffed cabbage or Sarmale, a festive dish representative of Transylvania!
This easy recipe for stuffed cabbage or Sarmale is the national dish of Romania and is really loved by Romanian people!
Christmas, Easter, or even a wedding the Sarmale are of all the great holidays. These are cabbage or vine leaves (marinated in brine or fresh), stuffed with a preparation of meat, rice and spices. It’s a festive dish, accompanied by smoked meat, polenta (mamaliga) and a good wine!
This dish, imported by the Turks when they conquered Wallachia and Moldavia a long time ago, was adapted by the Romanians who made it a real ritual.
And beware, the size of sarmale differs between Transylvania and Moldova (here larger, they become very thin in Moldova) and are supposed to represent the geographical origin of the cook 😉
But by the way, how do you prefer your sarmale? With cabbage leaves or vine leaves?
INGREDIENTS FOR ROMANIAN EASY RECIPE FOR STUFFED CABBAGE OR SARMALE – For 4 people Preparation time: around 2 hours
-1 kg of minced pork (or half pork, half veal mix), or lamb meat (especially for Easter but in this case they are made with vine leaves) -150 g of round rice -300 g of onions -50 ml of tomato puree -100 g of smoked bacon, or pieces of smoked meat -2 kg of cabbage, i.e. a large whole marinated cabbage in brine, (about 3 jars of RAURENI cabbage leaves 1350gr, or 2 jars of RAURENI vine leaves)
-1 bunch of parsley or dill (I prefer dill separating only the thin and small sprigs). – salt and pepper. – water or chicken or beef broth (about 400 ml, or more, the sarmale must be immersed in the liquid). This liquid that we will mix with the tomato sauce. But be careful with salt, because stock cubes are often very salty.
– a cast iron pot if possible, with its lid.
Wash and drain the rice.
Slice the onions and brown them in a pan with a little oil. When the onion begins to turn yellow, add the rice. Cook the rice a little with the onion and after a few minutes add about 100 ml of water. In a bowl, combine the meat, raw rice with the onion, half the tomato sauce, ground pepper, salt and parsley or if you prefer, the dill (the tiny chopped stalks). And if needed, another 2-3 tablespoons of oil. The composition should not be dry. Mix well.
Blanch the cabbage (or vine) leaves. If you have marinated cabbage in brine we leave it in cold water for a few hours to desalinate them before starting the preparation. Choose the thinnest cabbage leaves. Cut the cabbage leaves into squares of about 10-13 cm, leaving the central rib aside. Put one or two teaspoons of stuffing in the center, fold the edges on one side over the meat, roll and fold the other edge to give the elongated shape, while tightening.
After you have finished rolling the sarmale, take the cabbage leaves that are not usable, the rib too, cut them into strips, to form a layer at the bottom of the dish, sprinkle with smoked bacon, then arrange the sarmale on top, one next to the other to form a single row and cover the surface of the bottom of the casserole. This will be a first layer. Cover the sarmale with another layer of cabbage cut into strips. Sprinkle a few bacon bits on top and after, put the second layer of sarmale. And like that until the end. It is necessary that the baking dish is full, while thinking that we will cover the sarmale with the cooking juice and that it should not overflow during cooking.
Prepare the cooking juice with 1-2 cubes of diluted broth, and mix with the tomato coulis, pour this liquid over the entire contents of the cooking pot. The sarmale must be three-quarters in liquid. At the end we cover the sarmale with whole leaves of cabbage or if we don’t have leftover cabbage and we put the lid of the pot. Boil for 1 hour over medium heat and then put it in the oven (preheated to 180°) for about 2 or even 2 and a half hours, until the liquid drops by more than half.
We will serve them very hot with a little cream on top and polenta.
Enjoy your food or Pofta Buna!!
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Tips to consider – Desalt the cabbage in water – Prepare the day before for the next day – Use risotto rice to make the stuffing – Add an egg yolk to the stuffing
Sarmale with cabbage leaves in Brine
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