Cabbage rolls are a great way to get your meat and veggies and starch all in one go. Here are 3 different fillings that go with the same sauce. Take your pick or make them all!
I was inspired yet again by my brother when I was visiting. He makes up an industrial size batch and freezes dinner size portions. Yeah! Make Ahead! Having said that you do have to start this a couple of days before you are going to make the rolls. I day to freeze the head of cabbage and one day to defrost it in the fridge. This recipe takes a bit of time to prepare and shape the cabbage rolls and 3 hours in a slow oven to cook. So- make a big batch to make it worth your while and spend a nice crisp fall day with delicious cabbage roll aromas permeating your kitchen!
The original recipe is from a lady in my hometown, hand written on a recipe card. The recipe has evolved in custody of my brother but the thing that I learned from it was
- that I love the hint of brown sugar in the simple sauce
- using uncooked rice soaks up all that water the cabbage leaves put out. I will never go back to using cooked rice in my cabbage rolls!
I was experimenting so I made an Italian style filling, a German style filling and the traditional filling. They were all good but I have to say my favourite is the German style with its sauerkraut and caraway seeds.
All the variations are gluten free. The German version is made without rice so it is low carb. The filling is a bit loose but if you roll it tightly they hold together. The sauce for that batch was more watery since there was nothing to soak up the moisture the cabbage leaves released.
My farmer's market sells special flat cabbages that are especially good for making cabbage rolls because the leaf is flatter and quite big. You can certainly use a regular green cabbage.
I learned a good trick a few years ago from the Mennonite community. Freeze your cabbage and then give it a day to defrost in the fridge. The leaves peel off easily and are nice and pliable. I cut the base of the thick spine away so the bottom of my leaf has a V section cut out. That keeps them from being tough and easier the shape and roll.
Here is how to make neat cabbage rolls.
The sauce makes about 5 cups of sauce. Each one of the Fillings makes about 6 cabbage rolls. You can make all 3 if you like or double or triple the filling of your choice.
The number of cabbage rolls you get will depend on the size of your leaves. The outer leaves are larger and they get smaller as you go. Use ⅓ pt ½ cup of filling per leaf.
Use a pan or pans so that you can cook the rolls in one layer.
- 3 cups Passata (strained tomato sauce)
- 2 19 oz cans diced tomatoes
- 2 Tbsps brown sugar
- 2 Tbsps balsamic vinegar
German Style Filling
- ½ lb german style bulk sausage casing removed
- 1 cup sauerkraut drained well
- 1 med onion diced
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
Italian Style Filling
- 1 cup lean ground beef
- ⅓ cup pine nuts toasted in oven about 7 minutes
- ⅓ cup arborio rice, uncooked
- ½ cup mushrooms chopped
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
- 1 cup lean ground beef
- ⅓ cup arborio or long grain rice uncooked
- ¾ cup onion chopped
- ½ tsp each salt, pepper, caraway seeds
- 1 large head green cabbage
- Two days ahead (at least) wash and freeze your head of cabbage whole.
- One day before you plan to make the cabbage rolls remove cabbage from freezer and let it defrost in your fridge.
- Mix the sauce ingredients together and stir well.
- Spray an oven proof dish of dishes and spread 1-2 cups of sauce on the bottom of the pan(s). (Just enough to cover the bottom with a thin layer).
- Gently peel off outer leaves of the cabbage one at a time. With a sharp knife slice out the thickest part of the spine at the base of the cabbage leaf. You should have a leaf intact except for a thin V shape cut out of the base of the leaf.
- Prepare the filling(s) of your choice by combining the filling ingredients in separate bowls and mixing well.
- Take bout ⅓ cup of filling and place on the long edge of the leaf. (The V cut out will be on the short side.)
- Start to roll the leaf up. Tuck the right and left edges in to the center during the first rotation of the leaf. Continue rolling away from you until you get to the far edge of the leaf. Keep tucking the right and left edges under so the filling is contained as you roll.
- Place rolls in your pan on top of the bed of sauce. When all the rolls are in the pan pour the remaining sauce over the rolls distributing evenly.
- Cover the pans with foil and bake 1 ½ hours at 325 covered. Reduce oven to 250 degrees. Uncover and bake a further 1 ½ hours.