sarma croatian cabbage rolls

sarma kata croatian cabbage rolls

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Cabbage rolls! Growing up my Croatian Mom used to make these in huge batches because we’d eat on them for days. Yes, they get better as they hang out overnight much like pasta sauce and soups! I’d watch as Mom worked on the kitchen table deftly rolling the meat mixture in the wilted cabbage leaves then securing expertly with a toothpick~~it was if she was performing surgery as she would ‘sew’ together the parts of the leaf so as to keep the meat tightly bound. In Croatian they’re known as ‘Sarma’, so in memory of my Mom they become ‘sarma kata croatian cabbage rolls.’

Mom used regular cabbage…I really don’t think we had Savoy cabbage available back in those mountains of Appalachia, plus the regular cabbage was used back in the old country. But, I sometimes prefer to use Savoy cabbage…it’s easier to peel form the heads, more pliable, and seems to hold together better for me. Plus, I think the crinkley nature of the leaves is just really pretty. And, ‘pretty eating’ is part of making every day a tad bit more luxurious!

I suppose the biggest trick to this recipe is making the leaves and meat mixture come out evenly. So, if you have to steam a few more leaves or not use as many as you’ve steamed, then no problem. Every head of cabbage is uniquely different, just like each of us! That’s what makes for a most beautiful Boho world! xoxo ~enjoy the Croatian Sarma~ ally
PS…These were so so good that everyone dug in and literally ate before I could get pictures of the finished product, so just imagine in your mind or make them and you’ll see!
sarma kata croatian cabbage rolls

sarma kata croatian cabbage rolls

Yield: About 15 small to medium cabbage


  • Preheat oven to 350
  • 1 head Savoy cabbage
  • ½ cup sweet onions (or shallots), diced
  • 2 Tbl. Olive oil
  • ¾ lb. ground beef
  • ½ lb. ground Italian sausage (can sub pork, lamb, veal)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • ¾ cup rice, cooked
  • 3 tsp. garlic granules (can use garlic powder or garlic paste)
  • ¾ cup herb blend, chopped—flat parsley, basil, thyme, oregano
  • ¾ cup shredded (or grated) parmesan (divided)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tsp. red chili flakes
  • 1 (28 oz.) can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 (28 oz. can tomato sauce


  • In a large stock pot over medium high heat, put about 2 cups of water. Pull off 15-20 cabbage leaves and put in the hot water, cover with a lid and let them ‘steam’ just about 3-4  minutes just to get tender and pliable. Take tongs and carefully move them so the steam is getting to all. Remove drain and let cool.
  • In a sauté pan over medium heat, put the olive oil and onions and cook about 5 minutes until tender and translucent. Set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground meats, eggs and sour cream and use your hands to blend together. Add in the remaining ingredients (only 1/2 cup of the parmesan) and blend together well. Add the onions and blend well.
  • Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Take one leaf at a time and an amount of the meat mixture that seems to ‘fit’ the size of the center of the leaf. Place in the center, then fold over the sides of the leaf and secure with a toothpick threading through it or a 'stitch' made. Repeat this for all the leaves.
  • Put one-third of the chopped tomatoes and sauce in a large casserole pot. Add a few of the cabbage rolls. Add another 1/3 layer of tomatoes and cabbage rolls and the final tomatoes and cabbage rolls. Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan.
  • Cook in a preheated 350 for about 40-50 minutes. Remove, cool about 15 minutes then serve!
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sarma croatian cabbage rolls

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