Valigini di Verza (Italian Mortadella and Beef Cabbage Rolls)

Valigini di Verza (Italian Mortadella and Beef Cabbage Rolls)

The husband and I always enjoy our time in the kitchen, but making these little cabbage rolls was super fun. I can’t wait to make them again! We got this recipe from a book we picked up in Bologna, Italy called “Lezioni di Cucina”. We did the hard part (translating), the fun and easy part (cooking) is up to you!

The recipe itself is incredibly simple, and a great “make ahead of time” meal. Perfect for entertaining (and for leftovers!). The meal is great with an Italian red, like a Rosso di Montepulciano or a Chianti, but if you’re craving a white wine on these hot summer days, a big, bold California Chardonnay would also pair quite nicely.

Valigini di Verza (Italian Mortadella and Beef Cabbage Rolls)

Yields 12 rolls

You will need:

1 head of Napa cabbage

200 grams ground beef

1/4 of an old, crusty baguette, chopped into cubes

1 egg

50 grams grated parmesan cheese

100 grams of mortadella

1 handful of chopped parsley

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, grated

salt and pepper

kitchen twine

For the sauce:

1 large can of pureed tomatoes

1 large yellow onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, slivered

2 tablespoons of olive oil

50 grams of butter


1. Put on a large pot of water to boil. Clean the cabbage and remove the leaves.

2. While waiting for the water to boil, soak the cubed bread in a bit of milk. Once it has soaked in the milk (after just a few minutes), remove and squeeze out the excess bread. Set aside for later.

3. Cook the cabbage leaves in boiling water. After a minute or two (depending on the size of the leaves and their freshness: you still want them to be really hard and crisp and just lightly softened!), remove and instantly put into a water bath of ice and water to stop the cooking process.

3. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, mortadella, breadcrumbs, parsley, nutmeg, and parmesan. Crack the egg and combine, using your hands. (Make sure to wash before and after, of course!) Salt and pepper.

3. Fill the cabbage leaves. Place one on a cutting board, place a dollop of the meat mixture in the middle of the leaf, and fold both sides in by using your index fingers. Roll up using your thumbs. Tie with twine.

3. In a saucepan, cook the onions in butter and olive oil until they are translucent. Add the garlic and tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Feel free to throw in some herbs if you have them, too: I threw in some oregano and some thyme. Be creative!

4. Add the little cabbage rolls and cook over medium-low heat for 30 minutes.

5. Remove the cabbage rolls from the heat, cut the string, and serve. Enjoy!

Tip: if you save a little of the meat mixture, roll it into a ball, and place it into the saucepan alongside the cabbage rolls, it is a great indicator of how cooked the meat inside the cabbage rolls is. 🙂

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