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When it comes to secret kitchen weapons, Rach puts her giant cast-iron skillet at the top of the list. "It does SO much," she says. One dish she makes in it is this stuffed cabbage, but it turns out the real secret weapon here is actually a new kitchen hack she recently learned: "I read a Polish cooking tip that blew my mind," explains Rach. "Freeze a whole cabbage, then defrost it and trim the larger veins and you can SKIP boiling the cabbage all together. I know. Big one." No more big pots of boiling water, cooking the leaves and draining them. "It makes me so happy, I could do a dance all day long!"
Note that it takes about two days to prep the cabbage this way, so factor that in based on when you want to serve the dish.
For more recipes from our "Secret Kitchen Weapons" episode, check out Melissa Clark's Instant Pot Risotto with Red Wine, Mushrooms and Pancetta and Bob Harper's Air Fryer Frittata Cups.
For the sauce, heat EVOO in cast-iron skillet or pot over medium and melt butter into oil. Add onion, season with salt and soften a few minutes, then add garlic and stir a minute or 2. Add tomatoes, passata, stock, sugar or honey, salt to taste and bay leaf (if using) and bring to boil, then reduce to low and simmer 20 minutes. Take off heat and cool to room temp. Set aside about 1 ½ cups of the sauce.
For the cabbage and meat filling, freeze the whole cabbage wrapped in plastic for a day, then defrost a day in the fridge or on the counter overnight. Core cabbage and stem larger leaves and separate them, drying on kitchen towels or parchment layers; season with a little fine sea salt. From the center of the cabbage, shave off smaller leaves and finely chop about 1 cup. Use the rest in a soup later in the week or for a warm slaw salad.
Place rice in a large bowl, soak with wine and stock and let stand 20 minutes. Add beef and pork, season with salt and pepper and add spices, cheese, EVOO and egg, then combine.
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Add a handful of filling to each leaf and wrap and roll, then nest into sauce in concentric circle, making 16 to 18 rolls and nesting in sauce as you go. Dot the tops of the stuffed cabbage with the reserved 1 ½ cups of sauce.
Bake the cabbage rolls 60 to 75 minutes, until rice is tender and rolls are cooked through. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve from the pan.