Meatless Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Involtini di Cavolo)

Stuffed cabbage has always been a favorite of the family and typically, we make them stuffed with rice and/or meat.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to the meatless cabbage rolls at the request of a good friend. This dish was considered a poor, peasant dish but one that is absolutely delicious! My mom shared with me that when she was a child living in the mountains outside of Naples, meat was a delicacy that few could afford. Since the butcher shops did not have refrigeration at that time, they would sell scraps at the end of the day at an affordable price, which normally were purchased only for Sundays and holidays. Rice was also expensive at that time and impossible to buy for the less fortunate. Instead, they used things like homemade bread, which, once hardened, was kept to make breadcrumbs or soaked to use in stuffing mixes (we still maintain this tradition for many family dishes), fresh eggs from the chickens, and vegetables from the garden. Which, if you ask me, sounds perfectly amazing!

Cabbage is low in calories and packed with nutrients. It is rich in vitamin B6, folate, and vitamin C to name a few. It also has a good amount of fiber and contains powerful antioxidants.

Meatless cabbage rolls is a tasty dish that can be used as a first course or as a side dish. Feel free to add a tomato sauce to the recipe, which will make it even more delectable!


Prep time: 30 min

Total Cooking time: 1 hour 30 min

Yields: 18 to 20 Rolls


For vegetable stock:

  • 8 cups water

  • 1 large carrot, washed, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

  • 1 large onion, peeled and cut into quarters

  • 1 large celery stalk including leaves, washed and cut into 1-inch pieces

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For cabbage leaves:

  • 1 medium cabbage head

  • 8 cups water

  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

For sautéed cabbage:

  • 4 to 5 remaining smaller cabbage leaves, chopped

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 garlic clove, whole

  • 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

For mushrooms:

  • 6 large mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 garlic clove, whole

  • Pinch of crushed red pepper

  • Salt to taste

For rice and putting it all together:

  • 3 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 garlic clove, whole

  • 1 large celery stalk, cut into small cubes (about 1/2 cup)

  • 1/4 onion, cut into small cubes (about 1/2 cup)

  • 1 large carrot, cut into small cubes (about 1/2 cup)

  • 2 sprigs fresh parsley, washed, dried and chopped

  • 1 cup rice (white or brown)

  • 1/2 cup white wine

  • Salt to taste

  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

  • 1/4 cup fontina cheese, cut into small cubes


For vegetable stock:

1. Begin by preparing the vegetable stock. Using a large saucepan, add water, carrot, onion, celery stalk with leaves, and salt. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low to keep the stock hot.

2. Prepare a large baking sheet lined with paper towels or kitchen towel.

For cabbage:

3. Remove the outer layers of the cabbage and prepare a pot large enough to accommodate the size of the head of cabbage filled half-way with water then add salt. The cabbage should be fully covered with water. Core the cabbage (remove the stem) but leave the head in one piece before blanching it. This helps remove the leaves from the head easily. Bring water to a boil and gently place the head of cabbage into the water. Boil for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the size of the cabbage head. At about 6 minutes, test the cabbage by gently removing one of the outer leaves using a fork. If it loosens easily, transfer the cabbage to a bowl and remove the soft outer leaves, those that fold easily from the cabbage, then place the cabbage back in the boiling water and continue to blanch to let the next layers soften. Place the removed soft cabbage leaves on the prepared baking sheet and set aside to cool. Continue with this method until larger leaves are have been removed. Place the smaller leaves on the side to be chopped and sautéed.

4. Using a non-stick frying pan, heat olive oil then add garlic and sauté for a few minutes, until garlic begins to turn a golden brown. Add chopped cabbage leaves and sauté for a few minutes then add vinegar and sauté another 5 minutes. Remove garlic clove and set aside to use as garlic spread. Add salt to taste and set aside cool.

For mushrooms:

5. Using a non-stick frying pan, heat olive oil then add garlic, red pepper and sauté for a few minutes, until garlic begins to turn a golden brown. Add mushrooms and cook until mushrooms begin to soften, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove garlic clove and set aside to use as a garlic spread. Add salt to taste then set aside to cool.

Putting it all together:

6. Using a large, high-sided sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium heat then add garlic and sauté until golden brown. Add celery, onions, carrots, parsley and salt to taste. Sauté until vegetables are translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add rice and mix well. Toast rice for a few minutes. Strain vegetable broth and keep the broth on low heat next to the pan. Add white wine to the rice and vegetables and cook until evaporated, then gradually add 2 to 3 ladles of broth while continually stirring. Rice has to slowly cook by adding broth a little at a time. Once the rice is cooked, add the sautéed mushrooms, cabbage, parmigiano and fontina cheese. Mix well and set aside.

7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a baking dish or, if using a prepared tomato sauce, place the sauce on the bottom of the baking dish and set aside.

8. Place a spoonful of filling in the center of each cabbage leaf, close the leaves first from the sides and then lengthwise to create a well sealed roll and place each roll in the prepared pan. Continue this way until you have made all of your rolls.

9. Without sauce: add parmigiano cheese to the top of the cabbage rolls and bake for 20 to 30 minutes. If adding tomato sauce to the dish, top rolls with tomato sauce and parmigiano cheese and bake for the same amount of time.

10.Serve hot as a main dish with homemade bread or as a side dish.

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