Cabbage rolls with tender chunks of fish, bread, garlic and a smattering of herbs, drenched in a rich tomato sauce.






Skill level

Average: 5 (1 vote)


  • 8 medium cabbage leaves
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin
  • olive oil
  • thyme sprigs, to serve


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, cut into a few pieces
  • 300 ml (10½ fl oz) tomato passata
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • 250 g (9 oz) red rock cod (or snapper or other firm-fleshed fish) fillets, skin and bones removed, cut into 6 mm (¼ in) cubes
  • 100 g (3½ oz) crustless bread
  • 1 small zucchini (courgette), coarsely grated
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • finely grated zest of 1 small lemon
  • 2 tsp flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • ½ tsp thyme leaves
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • freshly ground black pepper

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Serves 4 as a starter.

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
  2. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and plunge in the cabbage leaves, a couple at a time (depending on the size of your pan) until they soften, then remove with tongs. When they are cool enough to handle, remove the thicker part of the central spine and dry the individual leaves with clean tea towels or paper towel. Set aside.
  3. To make the salsa, pour the olive oil into a frying pan large enough to fit all the involtini. Place over medium-high heat and drop in the garlic pieces. Allow the garlic pieces to brown on all sides, then add the passata (take care as it may splatter). Reduce the heat to medium–low and cook for 10 minutes or until the garlic infuses the salsa. Remove from the heat, add salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
  4. To make the filling, place the fish cubes in a medium bowl. Crumble or finely chop the bread and add to the bowl, along with the zucchini, garlic, lemon zest, parsley, thyme, salt and egg. Add pepper to taste and mix with a spoon (or your hands) until the mixture is well combined. Set aside.
  5. Flatten a cabbage leaf on your work surface; you may need to trim a bit of the leaf to make it a squarish shape. Place a log of filling (about 50 g/1¾ oz) on one end of the leaf, then fold in the sides and roll it up as you would a parcel. Repeat until you have eight involtini. If you have any filling left over, don’t waste it. You can shape it into a couple of tasty meatballs and cook them in the pan with a splash of olive oil.
  6. Pour the olive oil over the base of a baking dish that will fit all the involtini in a single layer, then add them to the dish. Bake for 20 minutes. By this time the fish in the centre will have cooked through even though the cabbage leaves won’t have changed very much.
  7. While the involtini are baking, reheat the salsa over low heat. Using tongs, lift the cooked involtini out of the baking dish and place them in the frying pan with the warm salsa. Gently turn them so they are covered, and allow the sauce to infuse the cabbage leaves for a few minutes. Serve the involtini warm, topped with salsa and garnished with thyme sprigs.

Recipe and images from Adriatico by Paola Bacchia, Smith Street Books, RRP $55.00