Most “stuffed” recipes can, admittedly, be a bit time-consuming. From dumplings to ravioli to…well…cabbage rolls, stuffing things takes a bit of extra time and effort. This recipe is no exception. BUT, like it and so many other stuffed recipes, it is well, well, worth it. Behold….classic stuffed cabbage rolls.
My paternal grandma used to make stuffed cabbage rolls and it’s taken me quite a while to nail down the same amazing rolls. The secret to these is the tomato sauce, which is made with brown sugar and white vinegar, which gives them a sweet and sour appeal. I’ve seen them called German-style, although there’s a whole other German-style cabbage roll made with brown gravy. Whatever their origin, I’m just glad that I finally figured these out. I like to make them in a big batch, which can easily be reheated or frozen, depending on your preference.
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls Recipe
This recipe makes about 2 dozen rolls
- 2 cups beef stock
- 1 cup rice
In a small saucepan, bring the stock to a boil. Add rice, stir well, reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 10 minutes and remove from heat. Let stand, covered, while you prepare everything else.
- 1 medium head of cabbage, whole but with the core carefully removed. I use a sharp knife to cut carefully around the core to remove it.
Fill a large stockpot halfway with water. Over high heat, bring to a boil. Add cabbage, cored-side down, and cover. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer the whole cabbage to a colander to drain and cool.
- 3 cups pureed tomatoes, with their juice (canned or fresh)
- 1 14 oz. can tomato sauce
- 4 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons white vinegar
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and stir well. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a good simmer, uncovered, and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside while you prepare the stuffing.
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1 lb. ground pork
- 2 large eggs, beaten
Over medium heat, melt butter in a large skillet or stockpot. Add onion and garlic and saute for about 5 minutes, until softened. Increase heat to medium-high and add pork. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring just a couple of times. Add beef and cook just until both are cooked through, about 10 more minutes. Remove from heat. Add beaten eggs and rice and mix well. Set aside while you prepare the cabbage leaves.
Carefully peel off each cabbage leaf, keeping them as intact as possible. Some of them may tear just a bit, but that’s okay – they will all come together when you roll them. You may need to slice each leaf at the thick rib near the core to remove them. Remove at least 2 dozen leaves and then chop up the rest of the cabbage.
In two 13 x 9 baking dishes, drop a tablespoon or so of tomato sauce in the bottom of each dish and swirl it around. Add chopped cabbage.This gives you a base layer of tomato sauce to put your rolls on and helps keep the cabbage from browning too much.
Preparing the cabbage rolls
Take a cabbage leaf and fill with a couple of healthy tablespoons of stuffing mix. Fold in edges and roll as tightly as possible without tearing the leaves. Place prepared roll, seam-side down, in the prepared baking dish. Repeat with remaining leaves and stuffing.
Cover baking dishes with lids or foil and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for an hour. Remove covers and bake for 10 more minutes.
Voila! Yes, these are a bit of work but they’re seriously worth it.
I like to make mine with a combination of beef and pork for 2 reasons – one is that I like the mix of flavors and two that it makes this dish a little lighter and healthier. If you prefer beef over pork or vice versa, feel free to add what you prefer.
I’m not a fan of all the added sugar that pervades our food these days but it’s definitely key, along with the vinegar, in this recipe. The sweet and sour aspect of the sauce is what makes these flavorful and unique.
I hope if you catch any missed steps or not-clear points, you’ll let me know. These aren’t nearly as complicated as they sound, really just time-consuming.
Never, ever be afraid to play with your food! Enjoy!