Take one part mid-March, one part cabbage, and one part meat, and stir into the collective mind. I’m guessing Irish food comes to mind, with its cabbage and corned beef or its stews of lamb and cabbage and wintry vegetables.
But you’d be surprised how versatile these humble ingredients can be. This dish is a little less Ireland, a little more Italy. I’m okay with that; as much as I love Ireland, Italy has better weather right now anyway. And fantasizing about better weather is about as tantalizing to me right now as taking a break from studying to make a delicious-yet-easy lunch.
This is another (Paleo/low-carb/celiac-friendly) dish for people seeking or willing to try interesting substitutes for noodles. I do eat rice pastas sometimes, but try to limit my grain intake. Plus, substitutions often have a lot more flavor.
In this case, I’m sautéing strips of green cabbage in a whole lot of good butter with a pinch of salt, and then testing it with different kinds of sauces. The trick is that you only want to use the top half of the green cabbage for this, before the harder white part starts. Save that for stir-fry.
For a few friends recently, I made cabbage like this with caramelized onions, mushrooms, cream, parsley, saffron, and dried cherry tomatoes, a little like a pasta with cream sauce. It didn’t taste like noodles, but it did taste like a delicious and fatty cabbage dish.
Today’s experiment: a simple lamb-tomato sauce. Really easy. The kind where you throw two cloves of chopped garlic and a patty of ground lamb into a pan with some olive oil, stir and add salt, add some tomato sauce, and simmer until your cabbage is done in pan #2. It works really well. The cabbage has most of what you’d want from a noodle: it’s chewy, flexible, buttery, and well-matched to the flavor of the sauce. The chunkiness of the sauce from the meat doesn’t just make this more filling and healthful, it helps the dish avoid being too watery, since cabbage doesn’t absorb sauce the way a traditional noodle does. If you have sauce left, well, that’s what spoons were made for.
Easy. Healthy. Tasty. Filling. Faster than boiling pasta.
Back to studying for biostats!
Buttery Cabbage Noodles with Lamb Tomato Sauce (Grain-Free)
- Top half of a very small green cabbage, or half-of-the-top-half of a large green cabbage (only the green part, none of the white stem!)
- 1/4 lb ground grass-fed lamb (available at PCC or the farmers market)
- 1 cup tomato sauce (store-bought or home-canned. If I’m buying it in the store, I prefer ones without tomato paste or sugar or oregano; they seem to be better quality)
- olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- lots of butter (3-4 T)
- parmesan, pepper, etc to taste
1. In one pan, heat olive oil to medium heat. Add ground lamb and break up with a wooden spoon. Add garlic. Stir, salt, adjusting the flame to make sure the oil doesn’t smoke.
2. When the meat is browned, add tomato sauce. Stir to coat, turn the heat down very low, and leave alone. You want the flavors of the lamb and tomato to combine well, and you want the sauce to thicken, so it’s not runny on the cabbage.
3. Slice your cabbage. Remember, you’re using only the top portion, where the leaves are thin and green. I cut the cabbage in half around its waist and then in half again top to bottom, so it’s easy to slice off strips. Cut them about the width of fettuccine, maybe 1/4 to 1/2 inch.
4. In pan #2, heat a lot of butter. Add cabbage. Stir. Add more butter as it absorbs yours. Add a little salt to taste. Cook until the cabbage is completely wilted and slightly brown in a few places, about seven minutes.
5. Arrange cabbage on the plate. Arrange sauce on top. Add any extras you’d like, such as parmesan or black pepper or parsley or even things that don’t start with a p, if you’re feeling really adventurous. Serve.