These Greek Dolmades with Cannelloni Beans are grape leaves stuffed with ground lamb, vegetables and just a bit of rice. They cook directly on top of the pre-cooked dried cannellini beans.
Oh, the flavor in those cannellini beans! With the lamb stuffed bundles cooking on top of the beans all the juices drip down from the dolmas giving the beans some amazing flavor.
There are many and varied recipes for dolmas. They are a favorite throughout the Middle East both as an appetizer or as a meal. This unusual mix of Greek dolmades with cannelloni beans is from the Sephardic Jews living on the Greek Isle of Rhodes.
I love Greek cuisine and have put Greece on my travel bucket list.
Did you know there are more than 6,000 islands in Greece? Only 227 of those islands are inhabited, and the Isle of Rhodes is among the top twenty of the most beautiful of the islands. Rhodes is also the largest of a group of Greek islands in the south-eastern Aegean sea.
When The Jewish people left Spain in 1492, they settled in Rhodes, Greece, bringing their culture and cuisine with them. This recipe for Greek dolmades with cannelloni beans is a favorite in their community.
What are Cannellini Beans?
Cannellini beans are elongated white beans similar in shape to a red kidney bean. They have a thicker skin than the great northern, navy or the lima bean.
Because of their thicker skin, they hold their shape well and are an excellent choice in soups, stews, salads, and chili.
How to make the Greek Dolmades with Cannelloni Beans:
Start with the dried cannellini beans. Pour them into a plate and remove any discolored beans, small pebbles or clumps of dirt. I have found a few pebbles in my past bean searches. It is no fun to chomp down on a bean-size pebble.
Next rinse the beans, put them in a Dutch oven, braiser or a heavy bottomed pot and cover them with cold water. Add some onion quarters, seasoning and a couple of bay leaves.
Cook the beans for thirty minutes. Drain them, discard the onion pieces and the bay leaves. The beans will be partially cooked at this point but will finish cooking with the stuffed grape leaves.
Sauté some onions and fennel and stir them into the beans. Now they are ready for the stuffed grape leaves.
Next, make the stuffing. This recipe uses a minimal amount of rice in proportion to the ground lamb. Only a quarter cup!
Mix the ground lamb, rice, chopped onions, fennel, tomato, and seasoning together. Use your hands. They are great tools for this process! Set the mixture aside while you prepare the grape leaves.
Prepare the preserved grape leaves by giving them a short bath in hot water to remove the salty brine. Drain them and plunge them into a basin of cold water. It is much easier to separate the leaves while they are in the cold water.
Depending on which brand of preserved grape leaves you purchase some of the leaves will be very small and unusable. Sort out about thirty or forty good size leaves and use these for the dolmas.
How to stuff and roll the Greek Dolmades:
Place one grape leaf flat on your counter, vein side up and stem end toward you. If there is a stem, use your kitchen scissors to snip it off. Place a tablespoon of the filling in the center of the leaf and fold the bottom portion up over the filling.
Fold over each side-end and roll the stuffed leaf tightly. As you proceed with the rolling, you will find that it is quite easy and you will be a pro in no time at all.
As you stuff and roll the grape leaves place them in the pot on top of the beans, starting at the outside and working toward the middle. Place them snugly together in one layer. It should take thirty or forty stuffed grape leaves to complete one layer.
Cook the Greek Dolmades with Cannelloni Beans:
Pour enough broth or water over the dolmas to just barely cover them. Add a splash of olive oil and squeeze half a lemon over the top. Place an inverted plate over the stuffed grape leaves to hold them in place. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for 30 minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat and let cool for a few minutes, then carefully transfer the stuffed grape leaves to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.
The Sauce for the Greek Dolmades with Cannelloni Beans
Do not discard the liquid left in the cooking pot as it is full of flavor! There should be about a cup or a little more of liquid left. Bring it to a boil and stir in a cornstarch mixture to thicken it slightly.
Serve several lamb stuffed grape leaves on a plate with a portion of cannellini beans and a drizzle of the sauce over them. All you need to complete your meal is a nice salad. In keeping with the Greek theme, we served it with a Greek Salad.
Do you want more dolma recipes?
These Greek stuffed grape leaves are packed with rice, fresh mint, pine nuts, and currants. They make a great snack or even a meatless vegetarian meal. You can’t go wrong with these.
Check out these other Greek recipes:
- Greek Salad (Horiatiki),
- Greek Easter Bread (Tsoureki),
- Little Greek Cheese Triangle Pies (Tiropita)
- Greek Stuffed Grape Leaves (these stuffed grape leaves are filled with rice, herbs, and currents)ADD_THIS_TEXT
Recipe adapted from: The Foods of the Greek Islands, by A. Kremezi
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For the Beans:
- 2 cups of dried cannellini beans
- 1 onion, peeled and quartered
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 of a fennel bulb, chopped
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
For the Stuffed Grape Leaves:
- 1/2 fennel bulb
- 1 medium onion
- 4 scallions, white and green parts
- 1 pound lean ground lamb
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste, thinned with 2-3 tablespoons of water
- 1/4 cup uncooked rice, medium-grain
- 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper (about 1/2 teaspoon each)
- 30 to 40 preserved grape leaves
- 2-1/2 cups chicken, beef or vegetable broth
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water
- Fresh dill or mint for garnish
For the Beans:
- Place the beans in a large pot, add cold water to cover by at least 4-inches and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, drain and cover with fresh cold water. Add the onion, salt and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until the beans are almost tender but still firm. They will be about half-cooked. Drain the beans and discard the onion and bay leaves.
- In a Dutch oven, braiser or large skillet set over medium-high heat, add the oil and when it is hot sauté the fennel and onion until soft, about 3-4 minutes. Add the lemon juice and stir in the drained beans. Remove from the heat and set aside.
For the Stuffing:
- In a food processor, pulse the fennel, onion and scallions until finely chopped. In a large bowl, combine the ground lamb, the onion-fennel mixture, tomato paste, rice, Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Mix until well combined. Set aside while preparing the grape leaves.
Prepare the Preserved Grape Leaves:
- Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat.
- Drain the liquid from the jar of preserved grape leaves and remove them from the jar. Unroll the leaves and drop them into the hot water. Immediately turn the heat off. Let the leaves soak for 2-3 minutes, then drain them in a sieve and plunge them into a pan of cold water to cool them.
- Gently separate the leaves and spread them on paper towels to drain. If the leaves have stems, clip them off with kitchen scissors. You will need about 30 or 40 leaves for the stuffing.
- Spread the grape leaf flat, dull side up and place a portion (see #1 note) of the filling on the center of the leaf. Turn up the stem end of the leaf, covering the filling.
- Fold over each end to enclose the filling. Beginning again at the stem end, roll the grape leaf gently but firmly into a compact cylinder. The surface of the leaf will cling together to hold the grape leaf in shape.
- Place the stuffed grape leaf, seam side down, on top of the beans, starting at the edge of the pot. Continue stuffing and rolling the remaining leaves, placing them snuggly next to each other and working to the center.
Cooking the Dolmades:
- Pour 2 cups of the broth, olive oil and lemon juice over the dolmades. The liquid should just barely cover the dolmades. Set the pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Cover the pot with its lid and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 30 to 35 minutes until the filling is cooked through and the beans are tender.
- Transfer the dolmades to a platter and cover to keep warm. With a slotted spoon, scoop out the beans into a serving bowl and cover to keep warm. There will be about 1-1/2 cups of sauce remaining in the cooking pot. If there is more, boil over high heat to reduce it; if there is less, add some stock and bring to a boil. Taste and adjust seasoning. Thicken the sauce by combining the cornstarch with the cold water and whisk into the sauce.
- To serve, place a portion of the beans on each plate, with 3 or 4 dolmades arranged on top. Spoon some of the sauce over the top and garnish with fresh dill or mint.
- The preserved grape leaves will not all be the same size, place enough of the lamb mixture on the leaf in proportion to the leaf size. See the photos to gauge how much stuffing you will need
- If you want a thicker sauce, increase the cornstarch to 3 teaspoons and the water 3 tablespoons
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Serving Size5 dolmades and 1/2 cup beans
Amount Per Serving Calories 406Total Fat 15.6gSaturated Fat 3.3gCholesterol 51mgSodium 737mgCarbohydrates 38gFiber 13gSugar 2.8gProtein 29g