Stuffed Cabbage Roll Recipe

March 6, 2013

I’m into my third month living in California, and aside from the typical missing of friends, family and horses, things are going wonderfully. Ok, a move across the country probably doesn’t include missing horses for most people, but it does when you move from Kentucky.
We’re fully unpacked, the house in Kentucky finally sold and I’m happy to say I actually feel kind of settled. As a result, we looked ahead to our travel schedule for the year. I feel a little like my entire life in California is one big travel adventure; there is so much to see here. But I’ve been aching for Europe. 
Christmas 2012 was a bit of a bust. There was no Christmas tree and very little baking due to all the packing. We squeezed in a quick trip to celebrate with family only to have it cut short by an impending snow storm. Three days later we were on a cross-country drive to California. 
I won’t lie; I’ve done my fair share of pouting ever since. I know many people are overwhelmed by the stress of the holidays, but I absolutely love that time of year. So when we talked about where we would travel this year, I insisted that Christmas be a big part of it. 
As a result, we are now scheduled for one of my ultimate, must-do, bucket list worthy experiences – the Christmas markets in Europe! Not to mention that this will be preceded by a few days in New York City to see the tree there. Then we will head over to Vienna, still one of my favorite cities in the world, and then off to Krakow, Poland. 
I don’t want to wish a year away, but I can’t hide my excitement for this trip!
In addition to all the Christmas action, my husband comes from Polish descent so we are very excited to finally travel there. And I have my mind on Polish recipes. I thought it was high time I try my hand at stuffed cabbage rolls.
Aside from the multiple steps, they are much easier to make than I expected, and this is coming from someone who is awful at rolling foods. Burritos, spring rolls, wraps – I might get one good looking roll out of 10. I’m happy to say that cabbage rolls are very forgiving when it comes to rolling them up.
This isn’t exactly a traditional recipe. It’s one I made by combining a quick look at recipes on the web with what I had on hand in the kitchen.

If you’ve never made stuffed cabbage, there are quite a few things going on at once, which I wasn’t expecting. You have to boil the head of cabbage, make the sauce, and then add some of that sauce to the filling. Just take your time and you won’t get overwhelmed. I suggest getting your cabbage leaves cooked and separated, and then concentrating on the rest of the recipe. 

Grass-fed Beef Stuffed Cabbage Rolls Recipe

1 small head green cabbage
1 tbsp olive oil
1 green bell pepper, cored and diced
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
14 ounces diced tomatoes (fresh will work, no-salt-added if you used canned)
¼ cup red wine
1 tbsp mascavo sugar (or brown sugar)
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
½ of the sautéed vegetables from the sauce (see preparation below)
½ lb grass-fed ground beef
1 cup cooked rice
2 tbsp cabbage roll sauce (above)
1 tbsp hot sauce
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Fill a large soup pot ¾ full with water. Bring to a boil. Remove any dirty or bruised outer leaves of the cabbage. Place the whole head of cabbage in the boiling water. Let it boil about 2 minutes, or until the outer leaves begin pull away from the head. 
Remove the cabbage from the water (I used a ladle). Use kitchen shears to cut off the outer leaves at the stem. They should be partially cooked and flexible. Set them aside to dry and cool. Return the head of cabbage to the boiling water. Repeat this process until you have 10 to 12 cabbage leaves.
Reserve 1 to 2 cups of the cabbage cooking water.
For the sauce, heat the olive oil over medium-high. Add the onion, garlic and bell pepper. Cook for about 3 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to brown and soften. Remove half of the vegetables from the pan and place in a glass mixing bowl. (This is for your filling.)
Back to the skillet, add the tomatoes and wine. Cook, stirring often, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the sugar, salt, basil and pepper. Cook 1 more minute. Stir in the 1 cup of reserved cabbage water.  
Transfer the sauce to a blender and puree until smooth. Add more cabbage water if you want a thinner sauce. (I used only the 1 cup.) Pour the sauce back in the skillet to keep it warm.
Add the ground beef and rice to the bowl with the reserved vegetables. Add 2 tablespoons of the finished cabbage roll sauce, hot sauce, salt and pepper. Use a fork or your clean hands to mix the filling well. 
First spoon about ¼ cup of the tomato sauce into a 5 quart Dutch oven and spread it over the bottom of the pan. 
Place a cabbage leaf on the counter top with the inside facing up (it should curve up like a cup), and put about ¼ cup of the filling towards the stem end of the leaf. You will have to judge how much filling to use based on the size of your leaves. I had a huge variation so I used anywhere from 2 tablespoons to a ½ cup. Just ensure that it isn’t so much that it squeezes out the side.
Fold in the both sides, and starting with the stem end, roll the leaf around the filling. Place seam-side down in the Dutch oven. Repeat the process with the remaining leaves.
Pour the sauce over the cabbage rolls, and cover the pot with the lid. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the cabbage has softened and the meat is cooked through and no longer pink. Serves 3 to 4.

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  • cozerka March 6, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    Hallo from Poland 🙂
    i love cabbage rolls, your recepie looks yummy 🙂
    We used to call them “golabki”. Gołąbki(original Polish spelling) means a dove.

  • Lori March 6, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    Hi cozerka! Thanks so much for sharing that info! I’ll be on the look out for the original version from the source when we visit. 🙂

  • emily (a nutritionist eats) March 6, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    Great photos Lori! I don’t think I’ve ever had cabbage rolls, but I know I would love them!

  • Danielle March 6, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    NYC at Thanksgiving/Christmas is something I’d love to do and see! Enjoy! I can understand your early excitement 🙂

  • Velva March 6, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    Stuffed cabbage rolls is something I make every year…I grew up in south Florida where the eastern european descent was large…Somewhere along the way, I learned to make cabbage rolls. Absolutely love them. You did an awesome job.

    Europe at Christmas time…You are going to love it.


  • Lori March 8, 2013 at 9:04 am

    Emily – Thanks so much! They really are tasty. Especially if you add a few twists like wine and hot sauce.

    Danielle – We’re really excited! My husband has never been to NYC.

    Velva – Thanks so much. I just love our melting pot with those pockets of European culture throughout the US. It was very German where I grew up, as is my family. 🙂

  • Jenna Francisco March 9, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    Going to the Xmas markets will be so fun! My grandmother was Polish, and she even went there with me and we had a blast. These look good!

  • @yumivore March 11, 2013 at 7:02 pm

    my mother is originally from Eastern Europe, and this instantly made me think of her and crave this! wish I had a fork to dive in – glad you’re settling in to California (no doubt you miss you home) – looking forward to meeting and hearing about Kentucky