Varza calita, translated as stewed or sauteed sauerkraut is a very traditional Romanian dish. It can be served both as main meal or as side dish. And it is a bomb of umami: it contains sauerkraut which is already packed with umami, bacon and sweet tomato paste.
It is a bit time consuming in the beginning, but it is so delicious that it is worth every minute.
As usual, my inspiration for Romanian dishes is Retetele Mihaelei.
- 500 g of sauerkraut
- 1 onion
- 50 g of bacon
- 1 tbsp of sweet tomato concentrated paste
- 1 laurel leaf
- 1/2 tsp of thyme
- 1 tsp of sweet paprika
- 1/4 tsp of spicy paprika
- 1 beef stock dissolved in 200 ml of water
- salt and pepper to taste
- The best pot to make this dish in is cast iron. Start melting the chopped bacon on very low fire until it releases almost all the fat.
- Add the finely chopped onion and cook it on low fire as well until it gets soft and glossy.
- In the meantime, squeeze as much liquid as you can from the sauerkraut. This will help the sauteing to be faster, since there is less liquid you have to evaporate.
- Add the sour cabbage one hand at a time and mix it in continuously.
- Once the cabbage is golden you can add: the dissolved beef stock, sweet and spicy paprika, tomato paste, thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Be careful with the salt – the cabbage and stock are already salty, so you most probably won’t need to add any extra salt.
- Mix it all well and add it in the preheated oven at 180 C for additional 25-30 min.
- It is ready to be served hot as is. Or as a side dish next to some meat. It also works great next to some polenta with sour cream and a fresh spicy pepper.