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Next time you see big, beautiful, green heads of cabbage in the market, grab one up and make this delicious Classic Cabbage Rolls Recipe!
Making cabbage rolls is a family affair.
TIPS for making the stuffed cabbage rolls recipe:
The filling comes together quickly and easily, similar to an easy meatloaf. The sauce is super easy to make too. The cabbage leaves are the only thing that need a little finessing to make it easy to roll up the beef filling. Here are a few tips that will help make this recipe a breeze!
- Buy the biggest head of cabbage you can find.
- Look for a cabbage that is a little loose, with leaves that are easy to peel off.
- Select a cabbage with plenty of dark green leaves on the outer layers. These large green leaves make the best rolls.
- If you can only find small tight cabbages, pick up two so you have enough of the bigger outer leaves to use for rolling up the filling.
- If you find yourself with a lot of inner, lighter colored, small leaves, they will work just fine but they need to be cooked a little longer to make them pliable and soft enough for rolling.
- Don’t worry if each cabbage leaf is not the same size. Adjust the amount of filling so you are able to roll it up easily.
- Use toothpicks to secure the cabbage if needed on the smaller rolls.
- There are two different methods I recommend for preparing (precooking) the cabbage leaves. Core the cabbage and carefully peel off the leaves taking care not to tear them. For this first method you can boil the leaves for a few minutes in a stockpot of salted water. If you have a hard time removing the tight leaves from the head of cabbage, place the whole cored head in a large mixing bowl covered with plastic wrap. Microwave for 3 minutes on high until the outer leaves of cabbage are pliable and translucent. Carefully remove the wilted, outer leaves with tongs and repeat the process until you have enough for the recipe. Whichever method you use, make sure you can bend, and roll the leaves easily to form the rolls.
Cabbage rolls can be found in many cultures.
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Classic Cabbage Rolls Recipe
For the cabbage rolls:
- 16-18 large cabbage leaves
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
- 1 cup cooked rice
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup milk
For the sauce:
- 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
- 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves for garnish
- Preheat oven to 375F.
To prepare the cabbage rolls:
- Heat a large pot of salted water over high heat until boiling. Drop the cabbage leaves, a few at a time, into the boiling water. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes or until wilted and pliable. Remove with tongs to a strainer to drain. Repeat until all leaves are par-boiled. Remove the thick central ribs by cutting along both sides of the rib in a long narrow triangle. Discard ribs. Set leaves aside. (SEE NOTES BELOW)
- Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet (or Dutch oven) over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until starting to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper flakes and sauté for 30-seconds. Remove the skillet from the heat. Transfer half the onion to a large mixing bowl.
- Off heat, add the ground beef, cooked rice, salt, pepper, egg and milk to the remaining onion mixture in the skillet. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Divide the ground beef and rice mixture evenly between the 16 cabbage leaves. Overlap the cut ends of the cabbage to prevent the filling from spilling out. Place the filling over the area that overlaps and fold in the sides. Roll the leaf tightly around the filling to create a tidy roll. Place the cabbage roll, seam side down, in the now empty skillet, Dutch oven or baking dish. Repeat until all filling is used.
To prepare the sauce:
- In the mixing bowl with the remaining onions, add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, brown sugar, vinegar and water. Pour over the cabbage rolls. Cover the skillet with a lid or foil and bake until the sauce is bubbling and the rolls are heated through, about 45 minutes. Remove the lid and spoon some of the sauce over the cabbage rolls. Continue to bake, uncovered, for an additional 15 minutes.
- Carefully remove the cabbage rolls to a serving plate. Put the skillet with the sauce on the stove top and heat on medium. Whisk together the cornstarch and water and slowly add to the sauce in the skillet. Heat until thickened. Pour the tomato sauce over the cabbage rolls and serve immediately garnished with parsley.
- There are two different methods I can recommend for preparing (precooking) the cabbage leaves. Core the cabbage and carefully peel off the leaves taking care not to tear them. For this first method you can boil the leaves for a few minutes in a stockpot of salted water. If you have a hard time removing the tight leaves from the head of cabbage, place the whole cored head in a large mixing bowl covered with plastic wrap. Microwave for 3 minutes on high until the outer leaves of cabbage are pliable and translucent. Carefully remove the wilted, outer leaves with tongs and repeat the process until you have enough for the recipe. You can do one method or the other, or a combination of both. Whichever method you use, make sure you can bend and roll the leaves easily to form the rolls.
Here are a few more hearty family style dinner recipes you might enjoy:
Try our easy Beef Stroganoff Recipe made with tender, quick-cooked strips of beef, sliced shallots, mushrooms and paprika simmered in a flavorful sauce of beef broth, dry white wine and sour cream. Serve over egg noodles, mashed potatoes or rice for an easy company-worthy dish that comes together in under an hour. Click HERE to get the recipe for Beef Stroganoff.
The Dublin Coddle is a delicious savory Irish classic made with potatoes, onions, rashers (bacon) and bangers (sausages) with a little chicken broth and beer thrown in. This would also be great with cabbage too. Click HERE to get the recipe for Dublin Coddle.
Turkey Tetrazzini Recipe – put your leftover turkey to work in this creamy, hearty casserole loaded with peas, carrots, Parmesan cheese and plenty of mushrooms. Click HERE to get the recipe for Turkey Tetrazzini.
Haha – my husband found this at the farmer’s market – what would you make with all this cabbage? Cabbage rolls of course!
Thanks so much for stopping by! Tricia
Originally posted October 2012, updated October 2018