Last night my husband made stuffed cabbage for me and our friends, Dave and Wendy. He likes to pretend that he isn’t a good cook or doesn’t really enjoy cooking, but he is totally bluffing – he just isn’t as obsessed with it as I am. My husband has some natural talent in the kitchen, and we enjoy working on dinner together. Last night, however, I just provided the company and he did all the work.
You will find many variations of this comfort food, as every family with Eastern European roots has their own recipe. My husband didn’t follow a specific recipe, he just tried to remember what his mother did and made some changes based on his own taste. He did a great job. The rolls were full of flavor and delicious. I hope you are inspired to change the recipe based on your tastes, too.
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
Makes about 18 rolls
1 head of cabbage
1 lb of ground beef
1 lb of ground pork
1/2 large onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup uncooked rice
3/4 cup water
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp cayenne
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
15 oz can tomato sauce
Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Remove core from cabbage. Place whole head in a large bot of boiling water. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes. Then, simmer until the cabbage is soft enough to pull off individual leaves. The leaves need to be pliable enough to wrap around the filling, but not so mushy that they fall apart. The timing can vary, so pay attention.
Once the cabbage is the right consistency, remove from the water and rinse in cool water. You may want to use a colander to help contain the leaves. Choose 18 of the largest leaves to use for the rolls. You can coarsely chop the remaining cabbage and put it in the bottom of your baking dish. For 18 rolls, we used two glass baking dishes – one 9 x 13 and one 9 x 9.
Now for the meat filling…In a large bowl, mix the beef, pork, onion, garlic, rice, water, and spices. Mix it with your hands in order to blend everything evenly, but not make the meat to tough.
Lay out each cabbage leaf and place 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the meat filling in the center. The amount will depend on the size of the leaves and how fat you want the rolls, or as my husband puts it “your desired meat to cabbage ratio.” Roll away from you one rotation, then flip up each side (it will look a bit like an envelope), then continue rolling away from you to fully encase the filling and create a neat roll.
Place each roll, seam down, in your baking dishes. Once all rolls are in place, evenly pour tomato sauce over each dish.
Place in oven and bake for about an hour and ten minutes. Serve with the sauce and cabbage ladled on top.