Classic stuffed cabbage recipes can take many forms, and not a single one is easy.
Whether it’s the sweet and sour cabbage rolls of my Eastern European ancestors or a meaty French chou farci, traditional stuffed cabbages are labors of love: meals I’m thrilled to encounter but rarely think to make myself.
Not so this recipe, which is a variation of a different order. The work of minutes rather than hours, it’s a rustic riff that’s crisp-edged and crunchy, deeply savory and maybe even a little sexy (for cabbage, that is).
The secret is in its streamlined stuffing technique.
Standard recipes call for separating the individual cabbage leaves, blanching them, rolling them around a filling, then cooking them again. Here, a piquant stuffing is massaged into the lacy crevices of a raw cabbage that’s been cut into wedges. Then, the whole thing is roasted until the top singes, while the underside collapses into something silky and sweet.
The filling, made of umami-rich anchovies and Parmesan with chopped walnuts for body, suffuses every bite. But the ratio of cabbage to stuffing falls decidedly on the cabbage’s side. For ardent admirers of the vegetable like myself, this is exactly right.
Once you have the basic method down, the filling is easy to adapt. You can swap any other nuts — or even cooked grains like rice or farro — for the walnuts. Other hard grating or crumbly cheeses will work in place of the Parmesan; feta is on my shortlist to try.
As for the anchovies, those divisive little flavor bombs, they can be substituted with anything pungent and salty for needed zing. Try minced capers, olives, sun-dried tomatoes or even a few tablespoons of flaked canned tuna.
Just make sure to be generous with the olive oil. It helps the cabbage wedges turn golden brown and carries the flavors of the filling so the cabbage leaves can thoroughly absorb it.
You can serve this as a relatively light, meatless main course alongside noodles, rice or crusty bread. Or pair it with roast chicken or fish for a hearty side dish. While it’s at its best hot and crisp from the oven, it’s nearly as good at room temperature or even cold from the fridge if you have any left over — making this easy dinner an even easier lunch the next day.