Creative in the Kitchen with Viorela

Recipes and Cooking tips from Viorela Nina Belteu.


Sarmale a specialty of Cuisine of Romania
by Chef Ella Buliga-Ratiș and Chef Viorela Nina Belteu

Traditional Romanian Cabbage Rolls are made with pickled cabbage leaves stuffed with rice and meat. Our version uses lamb Lule Kabob, pork Lule Kabob, beef Lule Kabob and chopped bits of smoked pork.

These Good Eating Meeting; Cuisine of Romania Sarmale rolls can be enjoyed any time in Romania. They are a specialty for every Christmas, New Years and Easter. You may also see them at weddings and family reunions as well. In Romania they may be smaller for holiday parties and much larger for family celebrations.


Everything you need to make the best Sarmale Romanian Cabbage Rolls.
  • 5 Large Roma Tomatoes
  • 1 Large Yellow Onion
  • 2 – 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 cup of Brown Minute Rice
  • 2 Vietnamese Green Peppers
  • teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 bunch of fresh Thyme to produce 1 teaspoon of leaves
  • ½ Lb. Smoked Ham
  • ½ Lb. ground Beef Lule Kabob
  • ½ Lb. ground Lamb Lule Kabob meat
  • ½ Lb. ground Pork Lule Kabob meat
  • 6 Lbs. Pickled Cabbage Leaves. We used two Zer Güt 51.8 OZ. Cabbage Leaves

NOTE: Lule Kabob is traditionally mixed with minced onions and parsley. Find Lule Kabob at your local Middle Eastern Butcher or deli.


Boil 5 large Romas for about 5 minutes in water. Boil the tomatoes just until the point where the skin begins to soften and split. Remove from pan and place in a bowl of ice. The ice water will aid in the removal of the skin without loss of the meat of the tomatoes.

Heat a large skillet with 2 or 3 Tablespoons of oil. Slice 2 Vietnamese peppers into small slices. Slice the ham cube the slices. Slice the onion and cut slices into smaller pieces. Add to the skillet with a pinch of salt. When onions become glassy add chopped pieces of smoked ham and the slices of Vietnamese peppers. Add 1 cup of brown Minute Rice. Toast the rice.

While the mixture is cooking, crush the tomatoes by hand. Prepare a bundle of fresh thyme by placing (in a plastic bag) in the freezer until the leaves have hardened. Roll the leaves in the bag. The leaves will break off and allow for easy use free of stems and stalks. Add 1 teaspoon to the tomatoes. After the rice starts to darken add the tomatoes into the pan or skillet. Add 1 teaspoon black pepper.

Look for the mixture to become red. Watch and blend carefully. The ingredients will turn red and you will want to remove from heat while the vegetables are still crunchy. Let cool.

When the ingredients in the skillet are cool enough to touch, blend in the lamb, the beef and the pork.

Remove the pickled cabbage leaves and slice square portions from the best middles of each leaf. Each square is approximately 4” by 4”. Soak the cabbage leaf squares in cold water to remove some of the salt content.

Chop the excess leaves and the trimmings into smaller pieces for a bed on the bottom of the pot and layer between rolls, also to top the rolls before adding the lid.

Roll the meat and tomatoes mix into each square and tuck the ends inside to close the rolls. Add to a slow cooker pot (on top of a bed of cabbage leaf pieces). Add about ¼ inch of cabbage pieces between each layer and one layer on top. Add tomato juice almost to the top.

Cook for 12 hours or overnight. Mixture should come to a boil and then reduce the slow cooker temperature to low for the remaining time.

Serve with Polenta and a dollop of sour cream.

This recipe is also available at Outdoor Cooking World

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