For diners on a low-carb or gluten-free diet, boiled cabbage substitutes well for pasta in many favorite noodle dishes. Boiling the cabbage tenderizes the crunch and also makes the flavor more mild, allowing it to mingle with the flavor of the sauces and toppings. Use cabbage cut into wide or narrow noodles shapes to suit the needs for varied noodle dishes from lo mein to lasagna and more.
Preparing the "Noodles"
Start preparing the cabbage to become a noodle substitute by cutting the cabbage into the proper shape. Individual large leaves can substitute for lasagna noodles. Use a grater attachment on a food processor to quickly create slender noodles for faux pad Thai or lo mein. When cutting the cabbage by hand, use a sharp knife to remove the core and create a flat surface. Quarter the head of cabbage, then slice vertically through each of the quarters in 1/2-inch increments. Wider cuts work well to substitute for egg noodles or dumplings in dishes such as beef stroganoff or goulash.
Cooking the Cabbage
While cutting the cabbage into the desired shape, boil enough water in a stockpot or saucepan to completely cover the cut cabbage. Add a couple teaspoons of salt. When the water comes to a full boil, drop in the cabbage. Start testing for doneness after 2 minutes. Boiled cabbage noodles are ready for sauce when they are tender enough to pierce easily with a fork. They're ready for dishes like lasagna or manicotti that require additional baking when they bend easily without breaking, but have a slight resistance when punctured with a fork. These noodles cook more in the oven after assembling the dish.
Creating Cabbage Courses
Using the cut and boiled cabbage as a substitute for noodles can be as easy as draining the cabbage in a colander and topping it with your favorite sauce just as you would noodles. Mix with vegetables, meat, stir-fry sauce and chopped peanuts for a take on pad Thai, or meat and marinara sauce for spaghetti. Other dishes require a bit of assembly. Create cabbage noodle lasagna by layering the boiled cabbage leaves in place of lasagna noodles. Double the thickness of the leaves to create more body in the finished casserole. Create cabbage manicotti by rolling ricotta filling into boiled cabbage leaves brushed with olive oil. Secure with a toothpick then cover with sauce and bake.
Tips and Tricks
Avoid using the crunchiest white cabbage leaves closest to the core. Even with sufficient boiling, these leaves remain bitter and fibrous and won't simulate pasta quite as well as the tender outer leaves. Instead of using the tough inner leaves, use shorter grates and cook until just tender to serve under a bed of savory stir fry, giving it a bit of crunch like authentic rice or sesame noodles. Try using boiled cabbage in cold recipes also. Chill the cut cabbage after boiling, add chopped vegetables and dressing for a mock pasta salad.