For the Sauce:
2 tablespoons EVOO
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped or grated
One 14-ounce can Italian cherry tomatoes or diced tomatoes
2 cups passata (tomato puree)
1 cup beef stock or beef bone broth
1 teaspoon sugar or honey
1 bay leaf, optional
For the Cabbage and Meat Filling:
1 large green cabbage
Fine sea salt
¾ cup raw white rice
½ cup white wine
½ cup beef stock
1 ½ pounds ground beef, 80%
½ pound ground pork
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons each granulated onion and granulated garlic
2 teaspoons fennel seed or fennel pollen or a combo
2 tablespoons fresh sage, finely chopped, or 2 teaspoons dried sage
1 ounce each grated pecorino and grated Parm (about ¾ cup each)
2 tablespoons EVOO
1 egg, lightly beaten
Handful of parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes or ground pepperoncini
For the sauce, heat EVOO in cast-iron skillet or pot over medium and melt butter into oil. Add onion, season with salt and soften a few minutes, then add garlic and stir a minute or 2. Add tomatoes, passata, stock, sugar or honey, salt to taste and bay leaf (if using) and bring to boil, then reduce to low and simmer 20 minutes. Take off heat and cool to room temp. Set aside about 1 ½ cups of the sauce.
For the cabbage and meat filling, freeze the whole cabbage wrapped in plastic for a day, then defrost a day in the fridge or on the counter overnight. Core cabbage and stem larger leaves and separate them, drying on kitchen towels or parchment layers; season with a little fine sea salt. From the center of the cabbage, shave off smaller leaves and finely chop about 1 cup. Use the rest in a soup later in the week or for a warm slaw salad.
Place rice in a large bowl, soak with wine and stock and let stand 20 minutes. Add beef and pork, season with salt and pepper and add spices, cheese, EVOO and egg, then combine.
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Add a handful of filling to each leaf and wrap and roll, then nest into sauce in concentric circle, making 16 to 18 rolls and nesting in sauce as you go. Dot the tops of the stuffed cabbage with the reserved 1 ½ cups of sauce.
Bake the cabbage rolls 60 to 75 minutes, until rice is tender and rolls are cooked through. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve from the pan.