For the Homemade Tomato Sauce:
Olive oil: We use extra virgin.
Onion: I like to finely dice it, so it almost melts when cooked.
Garlic: Use fresh for the optimal flavor.
Crushed tomatoes: Make sure that you use sweeter tomatoes, that is not too acidic, I like San Marzano.
Salt and pepper
Brown sugar: We add just a little to balance the tangy tomato sauce.
Red wine vinegar
Worcestershire sauce: It enhances the meat flavor
Dried Italian herbs
Classic Cabbage Rolls:
Lean ground beef: Leaner is better.
Cooked rice: Use white or brown rice, even other grains, like quinoa or bulgur will work.
Garlic: We use fresh, but garlic powder also can be used.
Seasonings: Salt, pepper, paprika, dried Italian herbs.
A whole head of cabbage: Savoy cabbage works great.
How do you make traditional stuffed cabbage rolls:
Make the sauce: First step is to place a large skillet over medium heat and sauté the aromatics in oil, then, add the tomatoes, tomato-based ingredients, and seasonings. Next, add in the rest of the sauce ingredients and allow it to simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes.
Prepare the leaves: Put the head of cabbage in a large pot of boiling water and cook cabbage for about 3 to 5 minutes. After that, remove the cooked cabbage and once the outer leaves are flexible enough to work with, peel off about 12 leaves.
Assemble: Next, in a large bowl combine the rice filling ingredients along with some of the tomato sauce. After that, lay a prepared leaf flat on a flat surface and using a paring knife or sharp knife, slice the thick vein or otherwise called thick rib. Afterward, put the meat mixture onto the bottom of each leaf and roll away. Do this repeatedly until you consume the leaves and the filling.
Prepare for baking: Thereafter, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and lightly grease a 9×13 baking pan.
Bake: Pour half of the sauce into the bottom of the pan and line up the cabbage rolls seam side down. Then, pour the remaining sauce on top and cover the pan with foil. Finally, bake until thoroughly cooked. Keep in mind that the filling must be thoroughly cooked, and it takes about an hour to finish cooking. Therefore, make sure to start checking after 45 minutes or so.
Ground Meats: An option is to use your favorite meat in these, while we used beef, ground pork, chicken, turkey, or Italian sausage work as well.
Grains: Alternatively, use brown rice, quinoa, bulgur, couscous, or lentils.
Vegetarian: Also, if you want a vegetarian option, substitute the beef with more grains, and also beans.
Veggies: Similarly, add more very finely chopped veggies to the filling, like bell peppers, mushrooms, or zucchini.
Spicy: Try adding some heat to these by mixing in some chili powder or Sriracha sauce.
Flavors: Also, try playing with the seasonings to add more flavors, for example, add some Taco Seasoning or Cajun Seasoning.Also, drizzle with a bit of lemon juice for a refreshing flavor.
What sides do you serve with these:
A side of mashed potatoes goes well with these, choose from this classic mashed potatoes recipe, or save yourself some time and make this slow cooker version.
Also, serve these with a salad on the side.
Soft dinner rolls and breadsticks pair well with this dinner.
Frequently asked questions
How do you fold a cabbage roll?
Put the filling at the center and fold the leaf from one side. Tighten the wrap until the filling elongates and forms a log.
Then, fold in from the two sides on opposite ends of the log to seal the ends. Then, roll away in the direction of the remaining free side.
How do you get cabbage leaves off the head?
You can do this by first removing the thick core. Then, submerge the whole head in boiling water. Cooking it slightly will soften the leaves and make them easy to remove.
How to store leftovers:
Refrigerate in a container: First, let the leftovers fully cool, and after that add them to an airtight container and store them in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.
Refrigerate in the baking dish: Alternatively, cover the baking pan tightly with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate the whole thing for up to 3 to 4 days.
Freeze before baking: Similarly, make this recipe in advance, follow all the steps just do NOT bake it. Also, make sure the casserole dish you are using is freezer-safe. After everything was added to the casserole dish, cover it tightly in plastic wrap, and after that is aluminum foil. After that, freeze it for up to 3 months. We do not recommend baking it frozen, thaw first.