I think anyone of ancient European or Middle Eastern descent has an old family recipe for stuffed cabbage leaves. It’s a dish that’s simple, satisfying, and doesn’t cost too much to make…you see, it’s peasant food, and I have to say, they sure knew what they were about! Amazing flavors from simple ingredients.
Stuffed cabbage leaves are easy to make, and if you’re more or less a bit confused about its origins – Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, and many others, the recipes use similar ingredients; ground beef, a bit of long grain rice, and spices all wrapped in cabbage leaves that are rolled into perfect little parcels.
And, let’s not forget that these get smothered in a rich and delicious tomato sauce and beef stock combination to add even more punch to a dish you may think lacks flavor.
Let me take your apprehensions away. This dish is delicious!
So, let’s get to it, shall we?
How to Make Delicious Stuffed Cabbage Leaves
Makes about 10-12 cabbage rolls.
Cooking time: 2 hours
Here’s what you’ll need:
• 1 large cabbage (you need the leaves to be big enough to make rolls with)
• 1 1/2 lb ground beef or ground pork (or a mixture of both)
• ¾ cup basmati/other long-grained rice
• 1 egg
• 1 stick of grass-fed butter, melted
• 1 cup freshly chopped parsley (loosely packed)
• 3 large cloves of freshly crushed garlic (I used a whole head of garlic because I LOVE garlic)
• 1 medium onion sliced thin
• 1 28oz jar of crushed tomatoes fire-roasted ones are particularly delicious!
• 1-quart homemade beef stock (you can sub water if you must or use store-bought beef stock)
• 1 cup water
• 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce (optional, but it adds depth)
• 2 tsp sea salt
• 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
• ½ tsp cayenne pepper
Loving Preparation – Delicious Stuffed Cabbage Leaves
• Take out a nice sized cooking pot and fill it halfway with water
• Salt it well and bring it to a boil
• Turn down the heat to a simmer
• While you’re waiting for the water to boil, put the ground beef, rice, egg, melted butter, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, cayenne, and Worcestershire sauce in a large bowl.
• Mix until very well combined
• Put the meat mixture in the fridge
Now that your water is simmering away, it’s time to get the cabbage ready.
Make sure you have a large bowl of cool water near the stove to place your cooked cabbage leaves in. This is very important otherwise they will overcook and become too soft for rolling.
• First, cut out the core. You want the leaves to come off easily (check out the photos below for guidance)
• Next, rinse the cabbage well
• If the outer leaves look a bit ragged, feel free to peel them off. You’ll need whole leaves to make the rolls.
• Now, taking a pair of tongs, gently lower the WHOLE head of cabbage into the pot of simmering water. It sounds a little crazy, but trust me. Magic will happen!
• You will quickly notice that the outermost leaf is beginning to soften and magically come off! Let the leaf continue to simmer for about 45-60 seconds
• Once the leaf is nice and pliable, take it out with the tongs and place it in the bowl of cool water to hang out for a bit until you’re ready to make rolls
• Keep repeating this process, gently and carefully rotating the cabbage in the pot until all the leaves are done. If you ripped a few, that’s okay! We’re still going to use them.
To assemble your stuffed cabbage rolls, you will need to trim the leaves a little bit.
To do this, begin by:
• Cutting off the tough stem
• Then run your knife along the stem to make it thin and pliable
***If you don’t trim the stem you won’t be able to roll the cabbage and you will end up with cabbage and meatball soup, which will probably taste amazing anyway.
• Take the meat mixture out of the fridge and divide it into even portions. If you have 10 cabbage leaves, you should make 10 portions of the meat mixture
• Take a leaf and lay it down so that the leaf curls towards you (not wrong side out)
• Take a portion of meat and lay it in the leaf closest to the base of the stem
• Shape the meat into a long loaf. This will make it easy to roll
• Now roll the leaf over once, tuck in the sides, and roll it over a second time (kind of like a burrito)
• Be sure not to roll these too tight or they might pop during cooking!
Now that you have your rolls assembled, it’s time to get them in the dutch oven.
• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
• Line the bottom of the dutch oven with a few failed cabbage leaves
• Sprinkle on half of the onion slices
• Spoon half the crushed tomatoes over the top and season with salt and pepper
• Layer half of the rolls (Usually 5-6 can fit nicely) and top them with the other half of the sliced onions and crushed tomatoes
• Season again with salt and pepper
• Now pour in the beef stock plus a little water if needed in order to JUST submerge the cabbage rolls. You will notice that they will float. Kind of annoying, but there is no avoiding this which is why we check these babies in 1 hour.
• Cover with a tight lid and put in the oven for 1 hour
• Once the timer goes off, take the pot out and check the rolls. Pour in a bit more stock or water if needed and try to submerge the rolls and cook for another hour. I almost always need to add more stock at this point.
If you can’t submerge them, very gently rotate the rolls at the top to ensure that they don’t dry out. You want to make sure the rice gets cooked, too.
They’re finished! I know it took 2 hours but believe me, it was worth it!
• Gently plate a few stuffed cabbage rolls and spoon over some broth. Enjoy!
Find more delicious cabbage recipes HERE.disclosure and disclaimer.