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Romanian Sarmale Recipe

Welcome to Romania, a land of rich history, stunning landscapes, and a vibrant culinary heritage. Nestled in the heart of Eastern Europe, Romania boasts a diverse culture that is reflected in its traditional dishes. Bucharest, the bustling capital city, offers a vibrant culinary scene where you can experience the true essence of Romanian cuisine. Among the many delightful dishes, one stands out as a true Romanian classic: Sarmale. These mouthwatering cabbage rolls are the epitome of comfort and flavor, capturing the essence of Romanian culinary traditions. In this recipe, we will explore the cultural significance of Sarmale and guide you through the process of creating this beloved Romanian dish.

Romanian cuisine is a beautiful fusion of influences from various cultures, including Turkish, Hungarian, Greek, and Slavic. The flavors and techniques found in Romanian dishes reflect the country's historical connections with neighboring regions. Bucharest, the cultural and culinary hub of Romania, showcases this rich tapestry of flavors, offering a delightful blend of traditional and modern gastronomy.

Sarmale holds a special place in Romanian culture, cherished as a beloved dish for festive occasions and family gatherings. The process of making Sarmale is a labor of love, with each cabbage roll carefully crafted by hand. The combination of tender cabbage leaves, savory filling, and a slow-cooked sauce creates a dish that is both comforting and full of character.

Now, let's dive into the recipe for Sarmale:


For the Cabbage Rolls:

  • 1 large cabbage head

  • 1 pound ground pork

  • 1 cup rice, cooked

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, finely chopped

  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For the Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes

  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth

  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

  • 1 bay leaf

  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Carefully separate the cabbage leaves from the head and blanch them in the boiling water for a few minutes until softened. Remove the leaves and set them aside to cool.

  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the ground pork, cooked rice, finely chopped onion, minced garlic, parsley, dill, paprika, salt, and pepper. Mix well until all the ingredients are evenly incorporated.

  3. Take a cabbage leaf and place a spoonful of the filling mixture in the center. Fold the sides of the leaf inward, then roll it up tightly, similar to a burrito. Repeat this process with the remaining cabbage leaves and filling.

  4. In a large pot or Dutch oven, combine the tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, vegetable or chicken broth, fresh lemon juice, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Stir well to combine.

  5. Arrange the cabbage rolls in the pot, layering them neatly. Pour the sauce mixture over the cabbage rolls, ensuring they are completely covered.

  6. Cover the pot and bring it to a simmer over low heat. Let the Sarmale cook gently for about 2 to 3 hours, or until the cabbage leaves are tender and the flavors have melded together.

  7. Serve the Sarmale hot, accompanied by a dollop of sour cream and crusty bread on the side.

As you savor the tender cabbage rolls, filled with a delightful blend of ground pork, rice, and aromatic herbs, you'll be transported to the heart of Romania. Bucharest's cultural and culinary influences shine through in this classic dish, showcasing the warmth and hospitality of Romanian cuisine.

Enjoy the company of loved ones, savor the flavors of Romania, and let Sarmale become a cherished part of your culinary repertoire. From Bucharest to your kitchen, embrace the rich cultural heritage and indulge in the comfort of this beloved Romanian dish. Poftă bună! (Enjoy your meal!)

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