I am sure 95% of people who read this will either cringe or roll their eyes, but… I don’t really like pasta. Or rice.
No, it isn’t that I just say that because I want to avoid carbs; I genuinely just don’t get much mouth bliss when I eat either. In my opinion, pasta and rice are quite bland and dilute the deliciousness of the flavors surrounding them. Basically, I was the kid that used two cheese packets on her Kraft and would be mocked “would you like some pasta with your meat sauce?” Perhaps it is that I have never had truly great pasta, but even in Italy, the slippery ribbons of wheat didn’t do much for me. I do enjoy some grains though, but that is because they have flavor in their own right. When preparing a dish that is typically tainted with pasta or rice, I usually sub in bulgur, amaranth, or more veggies. For example, last week I was having a strange craving for lasagna (which means I was actually craving meaty marinara) and decided to find a way to make it sans pasta. I still wanted layers of cheese, sauce, and meat, but I needed a new medium to act as the barrier. What is green and resembles doppia riccia noodles? Cabbage of course!
Recipe: Makes 4 (huge) servings
1 lb beef, 90% lean
1 head of cabbage (you will use around the outer most half of leaves)
1 cup mozzarella cheese (full fat)
For the sauce –
1 can TJ’s diced and fire roasted tomatoes with green chiles
1 can tomato paste
3 garlic cloves
3 tbsp chopped red onion
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp garlic grapeseed oil (I used Apres Vin, but you could also use extra virgin olive oil)
basil, a handful fresh or several shakes dried
Directions – 1. Preheat the oven to 350. Brown the beef on the stove top and set aside.
2. Prepare the sauce by combining the canned tomatoes, tomato paste, onion, garlic, basil, oregano, thyme, sugar, garlic oil, parsley, garlic salt, and salt in a blender and pulsing until combined. You can make it as chunky or smooth as you wish. Taste test and add any more spice if desired. Pour into the pan with the beef and stir. You can let it marinate for a few minutes on low heat while you prepare the cabbage.
3. Steam the cabbage the lazy way by placing the entire head in a microwave-safe bowl with 2 tbsp water, covering with another bowl or plate, and nuking for about 2-3 minutes. Cut off the very bottom of the cabbage. Carefully peel off the leaves of cabbage and lay on a towel to dry.
4. Grease an oven-safe 13 x 9 x 2 dish with olive oil. Place a layer of cabbage leaves on the base. Add a layer of meaty pasta sauce. Sprinkle on a third of the mozzarella cheese and some parmesan. Sprinkle on more garlic salt, oregano, parsley and thyme. Add another layer of cabbage leaves. Top with a layer of pasta sauce. Add another layer of cheese and spices. Repeat once more or until you are out of pasta sauce and cheese. Bake covered with foil for 25 minutes and uncovered for ~10 minutes or until the cheese is browned to your liking.
Tomatoes * also contain a LOT of vitamin A and C. Vitamin A is a potent antioxidant that has been shown in studies to reduce the effects of smoking. This does not mean it is okay to smoke, but if you do, it is a VERY good idea to make sure are getting lots of vitamin A daily. Tomatoes are also rich in lycopene, which has been proven to halt the growth of cancer cells!
Lean beef * An excellent source of iron, B vitamins, zinc, selenium, phosphorous, and of course protein. Don’t be scared of beef’s fat content! Check out my post on saturated fats here.
Basil * Has anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants called flavonoids. Flavonoids protect your cells from damage (and thus, in the long run, cancer).