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Il Gattopardo's meatballs wrapped in cabbage leaves recipe

These juicy, tender meatballs are comfort food with an Italian flair.
These juicy, tender meatballs are comfort food with an Italian flair.
Published with permission of Il Gattopardo

Chef Vito Gnazzo, executive chef at Il Gattopardo, makes these ultra-tender meatballs wrapped in an almost translucent Savoy cabbage leaf, which seals in juiciness and imparts a delicate flavor to the dish.

He likes to pair a big glass of Montefalco Rosso with these meatballs — with bright red fruits, hint of spice, and invigorating acidity, Montefalco Rosso acts as the perfect complement to the fattiness of the meat.

This friendly blend results from a balanced combination of Sangiovese (60-70%) and the indigenous Sagrantino grape (10-15%), along with other locally-grown grapes such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Grown atop the hills of Montefalco, a small village in central Italy’s Umbria region, Montefalco Rosso is championed as the everyday wine of the Umbrian people.


For the meatballs:

  • 18 oz ground beef
  • 6 oz ground veal
  • 1 egg
  • 2 oz breadcrumbs, soaked in milk
  • 1 small red onion, very finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
  • 1 small bunch Italian parsley, very finely chopped
  • 1 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
  • 1 oz Pecorino Romano, grated
  • 12 leaves Savoy cabbage
  • ¼ c olive oil

For the sauce:

  • 2 T white wine
  • ¼ c chicken stock
  • 1 bunch thyme
  • ¼ c olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


For the meatballs:

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat, and set up a bowl of ice water.

3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the ground beef and veal, egg, breadcrumbs, onion, garlic, parsley, and cheeses. Mix until smooth.

4. Blanch the cabbage leaves just until softened, then plunge into the bowl of ice water. Drain immediately.

5. With your hands, form the meat mixture into little balls, and wrap with the cabbage leaves.

6. In an ovenproof pan large enough to fit the meatballs in a single layer, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Fry the meatballs for 1 minute on each side.

7. Transfer to the oven and bake for about 5 minutes. Remove the meatballs from the pan, and wipe out the pan.

For the sauce:

1. In the same pan, combine the white wine, stock, thyme, and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook for 1 minute over high heat.

Serves: 4

Suggested wine pairing: Montefalco Rosso

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