Stuffed savoy cabbage or involtini di verza are quite a ‘homey’ dish, but they are so tasty and nice looking to boot that I dare to serve them at a dinner party. There is no single recipe for them — as with many Italian dishes there are as many variations as there are families. The general idea is that a large leaf of green curly savoy cabbage is parboiled, stuffed and then baked. I stuffed my version with the tender inner cabbage, minced beef and pork, mortadella, fennel seeds, and parmigiano and they were absolutely wonderful. The mortadella is important as it adds a lot of flavor, but if you use too much it will overpower the rest. I’m not usually big on cabbage, so I was surprised how delicious these turned out to be.
1 head savoy cabbage
200 grams (.44 lb) ground pork
200 grams (.44 lb) ground beef
100 grams (3.5 oz) mortadella, minced
1 tsp fennel seeds
60 grams (2 oz or 6 Tbsp) freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
1 minced carrot (about 80 grams or 1/2 cup)
1 minced small onion (about 80 grams or 1/2 cup)
1-2 minced celery stalks (about 80 grams or 1/2 cup)
125 ml (1/2 cup) dry white wine
2 eggs, beaten
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbsp olive oil
25 grams (2 Tbsp) butter
1 tsp baking powder
Carefully detach 9 nice looking outer leaves and leave them whole. Remove the tough center from the remaining inner part; this is easiest when you cut it into quarters first. Take 250 grams (.55 lb) of the inner cabbage and shred it. Save the remaining inner cabbage for another use.
Continue to brown the meat until it starts to ‘sizzle’ and a brown layer on the bottom of the pan has formed. Take care not to burn this layer. Add the fennel seeds and sauté them briefly with the meat.
Meanwhile, in a large pot bring about 2 litres (2 quarts) of water to a boil to which you have added the baking powder. The baking powder makes the water alkaline and helps to maintain the bright green color of the cabbage. Parboil the cabbage leaves for 3-4 minutes or until tender but still firm to the bite. The outermost dark leaves need about 4 minutes, for the lighter colored leaves 3 minutes is enough. Parboil the leaves in about 3 batches.
Stir to mix. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper. (If you are worried about tasting with the raw egg in there, you could mix in the parmigiano, then adjust the seasoning, and add the eggs after that.)