If you can't travel to Romania, bring Romania to you. To celebrate Romania's national day, here is a recipee from a typical dish called the "sarmale". This can be a great idea for dinner tonight!



The Sarmale is a typical Romanian dish. This dish consists of cooked cabbage leaves wrapped around a filling of seasoned meat usually pork and beef. In thoses cabbage rolls fillings, rice, tomatoes, onions and spices are included. This warm served meal is perfect for family gatherings or holidays. In Romania, Sarmale is traditionnally served on  Christmas or other large celebrations such as weddings and baptism. Sarmale is a great dish and tastes even better reheated the next day. Which is a common way of consumming this Romanian dish. 


This recipe makes approximately 60-70 Sarmale, which represents 15 portions. 

Preparation for the cabbage leaves (Sarmale)

  • 2 medium cabbages
  • 1 tbsp (15g) salt
  • 4-5 thyme sprigs
  • 2 fresh dill sprigs
  • Hot boiling water

Preparation for the meat filling

  • 5 tbsp (70g) of vegetable oil
  • 4 (500g) of medium chopped onions
  • 2 tbsp (4) paprika
  • 1/4 cup (65g) of tomato paste
  • 1 1/4 cup (250g) long grain rice
  • 1 pound (450g) ground pork
  • 1/4 pound (110g) ground beef
  • 1/2 cup (25g) fresh dill
  • 1 1/2 tsp (7g) salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp (5g) ground black pepper

For cabbage mixture to place on bottom and on top of the pot

  • 2 tbsp fresh dill
  • 1/2 tsp (3g) salt
  • Ground black pepper

For the Sarmale sauce

  • 1-2 chicken cube broth
  • 400 ml of tomato sauce
  • 14 oz (400g) can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 pound (230g) smoked pork ribs


  1. Preheat the oven at 180C/ 350F for 1h.

  2. Remove core from the 2 medium cabbages. In a large pot bring water to a boil, enough to almost cover the cabbage. Add 1 tbsp of salt, 4-5 thyme and 2 dill sprigs. Immerse cabbage in boiling water with the core side down. Cook over medium-high heat 5 to 10 minutes. Turn and gently remove leaves. When the leaves are tender and flexible remove and let them cool.  

  3. Prepare the filling. In a frying pan heat 5 tbsp of vegetable oil over medium high heat. Cook the 4 medium chopped onions until soft and glossy. Stir in 2 tsp paprika and 1/4 cup of tomato paste and remove from heat. Let cool slightly. 

  4. Drain and rinse 1 1/4 cup long grained rice. Add rice, 1 pound of ground pork and 1/4 pound of beef, ½ cup of chopped dill, 1 1/2 tsp salt and 1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper to the frying pan. Stir until well combined. Set aside the mixture. 

  5. Trim the thick veins from the cabbage leaves for easier rolling and set aside. Cut leaves in smaller pieces (approximately 10-13 cm). 

  6. Chop the leftover cabbage (middle part) and the veins and place in a bowl. Mix chopped cabbage with 2 tbsp of fresh chopped dill, 1/2 tsp salt and ground black pepper. 

  7. In the bottom of a large cooking pot, place half of the chopped cabbage. Add a few thyme sprigs on the top. Reserve the other half of the chopped cabbage. 

  8. Start making the cabbage rolls with the mixture. Place 1/2 to 1 tbsp of mixture on the bottom of each leaf. Fold in the sides and start rolling the cabbage leaf to create a roll. Place the rolled cabbage on top of the chopped cabbage in the cooking pot. Repeat until all the filling is done. Place the other half of chopped cabbage over the top of the rolls and add a few thyme sprigs. 

  9. Create sauce to put on top of the Sarmale (cabbage rolls). Add 1-2 chicken cubes into the required amount of water and mix with 400 ml of tomato sauce. Add the sauce into the pot until the cabbage rolls are almost covered with liquid (up to ¾ of the pot). 

  10. On top of the cabbage rolls, add 14 oz of canned diced tomatoes. Add 1/2 pound smoked pork ribs and  arrange the pork ribs in smaller pieces. 

  11. Cover the pot and cook at medium heat until it starts to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour. 

  12. Put the pot in the oven for about 2h until the liquid has reduced by more than half. 

  13. Serve cabbage rolls warm with sour cream and polenta. 


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