Involtini di cavolo con patate e funghi

I tasted this dish of cabbage parcels with potato and mushroom recently at a wonderful trattoria, Osteria di Golpaja at the wonderful Villa Pietriolo, a sustainable, organic estate with its own farm animals, olive trees and vineyards, tucked in the hills between Vinci and San Miniato. Everything they use in this beautiful osteria is grown or reared on the property, from the Cinta Senese to the vegetables, and naturally, the seasons dictate the menu. It was a damp, muddy late autumn day and this warming dish — which was served as a main and came after the chestnut pasta with wild boar ragu and polenta with mushrooms — was just the thing.

The first thing that hits you is the sweetness of the roast cabbage – when I haven’t had it in a while I forget how sweet it is! Then you get creamy, cheesy mashed potatoes and pops of small, chiodini (honey fungus) mushrooms. If this isn’t comfort food I don’t know what is. It is a joy to eat.

I knew I wanted to try to recreate it at home, and while I love this as a vegetarian main dish, I thought about adding just a little bit of speck – a smoky, dry-cured slab of pork thigh, an IGT status product from Sud Tyrol, which was a little wave hello to the friends we ate this with, who live in Trento and had brought it to us as a souvenir (edible souvenirs are the best). Bacon would be close to it, if you can’t get speck, or you could use any ham you like. If you want to keep it vegetarian, however, you could easily leave out the speck completely. I thought as I was putting this into the oven that roast chestnuts in place of the speck, crumbled a little, would be absolutely delicious here.

There are three parts to this recipe that could all be prepared separately the day before (or simply, if you happened to have left over mashed potato), then putting them together is a cinch: blanching and drying the cabbage leaves, making the mashed potatoes and cooking the mushrooms.

I indicate more leaves than you might need because some may break as you are handling them or they may be smaller than you thought – small leaves can be overlapped to create one larger parcel. This recipe will make about 8 parcels, which could feed 8 people if part of a bigger meal.  We shared one of these at the restaurant as we were greedy and wanted to try a bit of everything — salumi, pasta, polenta and all the desserts! But if on their own I could easily eat two of these for a simple lunch.

Involtini di cavolo con patate e funghi
Cabbage parcels with potato and mushrooms

  • 8-12 fresh savoy cabbage leaves
  • 500 grams (3 medium sized) floury potatoes
  • 100 grams butter
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) milk
  • 40 grams (a handful) of grated Parmesan cheese
  • 150 grams chiodini (honey fungus) or other mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) white wine
  • 1 thick slice of speck, cut into matchsticks (optional)
  • a few sprigs of parsley
  • 100 grams of Asiago cheese, diced

Rinse the cabbage leaves. Bring a large pot of water to boil and place the leaves in the simmering water and blanch for about 1 minute. Drain them and place in a single layer on a tea towel to drain further.

Peel and chop the potatoes roughly and place in a pot of cold water. Bring to a boil and cook until a fork slides easily into them. Drain then place them back in the warm pot, add half of the butter and the milk, along with the Parmesan and a good pinch of salt and mash until smooth. Set aside until needed.

Cut the bases off the chiodini to separate them (they grow in clusters). If there are any large mushrooms, you can chop them in half or in smaller pieces. Pour olive oil into a wide pan and add the garlic clove. Carefully heat the oil over low-medium heat until the garlic begins to sizzle and infuse the oil – make sure not to brown it too much. Remove, then add the mushrooms, followed by the white wine and cook them until they are tender, about 10 minutes. At the last minute or two, add the speck and toss everything together.

Remove from the heat, add the parsley, then mix the mushrooms into mashed potatoes (if using cold mashed potatoes prepared earlier, this is easier to do if you warm them first). Finally, stir in the diced cheese and taste – it probably won’t need much seasoning but adjust if it does. Try to resist not simply eating the filling from the pan, although it is very, very good eaten this way, I promise it will be even better with the cabbage parcel wrapped around it!

Heat oven to 180ºC (350ºF). With a little of the butter, grease the bottom of a baking tray.

Now get back to the cabbage leaves. It is quite helpful for rolling (not to mention fun) to give the thicker stems towards the base of the leaf a bit of a bash with a rolling pin. Using two tablespoons, place heaping spoonfuls of filling (if you have cups, they would be ½ cup portions) into the middle of each cabbage leaf. Roll up the bashed stem end first, then the top down and finally the sides. Place the little package, seams down in the prepared baking tray. Continue with the rest. If you have small or broken leaves, simply use one of the extra leaves to overlap and wrap as if it were one leaf.

Divide the rest of the butter into little pieces and place these on the top of each parcel (the original, in the top photo, also had a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese on top; do as you wish), then bake for 20 minutes or until the tops are beginning to brown and melted cheese that has escaped its enclosure is sizzling. Eat immediately.

Comments

  1. Lisa Palmer says:

    And just when I was wondering what to do with all the cabbage I just harvested! First-time veg gardener here, and I now see why I need to space out planting the starts, because 10 big heads of cabbage at once (for two people) is a bit much, lol. And how much garlic slaw can we really eat?? So THIS looks delicious!!! Can’t wait to make it tonight. I so love and miss Tuscany, and how they (and you) make delicious art out of the humblest of ingredients. Grazie mille!!

Leave A Comment