Recipe: Weeknight Cabbage Rolls

Recipe: Weeknight Cabbage Rolls

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Christine Gallary
Jan 16, 2017
(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

Stuffed cabbage is a comforting winter dish that also makes a complete meal. The traditional preparation of a savory meat-and-rice filling rolled up in tender cabbage that's slow-baked in a sweet-sour tomato sauce is a labor of love.

To make this dish more weeknight-friendly, we make these on the stovetop in just one skillet, from start to finish. You can have all the same satisfaction in a fraction of the time.

The One-Skillet Cabbage Roll

Traditional stuffed cabbage is made by making a sweet-and-sour tomato sauce on the stovetop and then transferring the sauce into a baking dish with the stuffed cabbage. The whole thing is baked in the oven and usually takes close to an hour. To speed things up here, we make the sauce in a skillet, add the stuffed cabbage rolls right into the pan, and simmer it covered so it takes only about 35 minutes instead.

Savoy cabbage, with its sweet and tender leaves, wilts down with a quick blanch in boiling water and is ideal for stuffed cabbage. Get a large head to make sure the leaves are big enough for stuffing. You can use the remaining cabbage in a stir-fry or slaw later.

To make this even more weeknight-friendly, you can simmer the tomato sauce, mix the filling a day ahead, and store separately in the refrigerator. When you're ready to cook, just bring the tomato sauce back to a simmer and proceed with the recipe.

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

Weeknight Cabbage Rolls

Serves 4

For the cabbage and sauce:
1 large head Savoy cabbage (about 2 1/4 pounds), including outer leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes and their juices
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup raisins (optional)
3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the filling:
1/3 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
1 large egg
1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground beef

Prep the cabbage: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, remove 10 to 12 whole outer leaves from the cabbage by cutting them off the core. (Reserve the remaining cabbage for another use.) Add the leaves to the boiling water and blanch until wilted, about 2 minutes. Drain and transfer the leaves to a paper towel-lined baking sheet; set aside.

Make the sauce: Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, raisins if using, brown sugar, salt, and pepper and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the flavors meld, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, make the filling and stuff the cabbage.

Make the filling: Place all the ingredients except the beef in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Add the beef and gently mix it in, making sure not to compact the meat. Divide the mixture into 8 portions (about scant 1/3 cup each), then form each portion into a ball.

Working with one leaf at a time, place a ball on the center of the leaf. Fold in the sides of the leaf tightly over the filling, completely covering the filling. Place seam-side down on a baking sheet or large plate. Repeat with the remaining leaves, overlapping 2 leaves as needed if they are too small (you will not use all the leaves).

When the sauce is ready, place the stuffed cabbage seam-side down in single layer in the sauce. Spoon some of the sauce over the top of the stuffed cabbage so that they're covered. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat undisturbed until the rice in the filling is cooked through, about 35 minutes.

Recipe Notes

  • Make ahead: The sauce can be made and the cabbage stuffed and stored in the refrigerator up to 1 day ahead. Store separately and bring the sauce to a simmer before adding the stuffed cabbage to the pan.
  • Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
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