One of my favorite restaurants in Umbria is Villa Roncalli in the town of Foligno. This well appointed country restaurant specializes in spit-roasted meats, game, fowl¦and songbirds. Since my last visit there the Italian government and nature lovers have taken steps to protect the depleting songbird population, and they are no longer featured on the menu.
One of the dishes I recall with fondness and make often is this terrina di verza or stuffed Savoy cabbage rolls. They are juicy and flavorful, with a wonderful lemon taste, and a good example of rustic country cooking. They are usually cooked in earthenware, which keeps in the heat and makes the rolls juicy, but I use a heavy-duty oven casserole and have great success.
1 medium head Savoy cabbage, washed and center core removed
2 tablespoons Filippo Berio Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 pound ground pork
1/4 pound ground sirloin tips
1/4 pound chicken breast
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup minced Italian parsley
2 teaspoons minced marjoram or thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram or thyme
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
6 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons grated Pecorino cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
Grinding coarse black pepper
2/3 cup chicken broth
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the cabbage and cook just until the leaves begin to wilt and are limp enough for rolling. Remove the cabbage with a slotted spoon and allow to cool until easy to handle.
Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan and when it is hot add the meats and garlic and cook until the meats are browned. Drain the meats through a colander to remove the excess fat. Transfer the meat to a bowl and stir in the herbs, lemon zest, bread crumbs, 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan cheese, all of the Pecorino cheese, egg, salt, and black pepper. Set the mixture aside.
Separate the cabbage leaves leaving them as whole as possible. If you need to patch, overlap the leaves. Divide the meat mixture among 8 of the largest leaves and roll each one up like a little bundle.
Lightly brush an earthenware baking dish or other casserole dish with olive oil and place the cabbage rolls in the dish. Pour the chicken broth around the rolls, cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake the rolls for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle the tops of the rolls with the remaining Parmesan cheese, and continue baking the rolls for an additional 10 minutes.
Serve the rolls hot with some of the juices poured over them.
Variation: 5 minutes before the rolls are done, add bits of sun dried tomatoes.
This recipe is from CIAO ITALIA IN UMBRIA by Mary Ann Esposito, published by St. Martin's Press in 2002.
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