Cabbage Rolls have their roots in Eastern and Central Europe and have been adopted by many cultures around the world, they all come in different shapes and styles but the principles are pretty much the same; they start with fresh or pickled heads of cabbage, high quality ground meats and rice and perfection is born!
Growing up Slovenian cabbage roll making day was a cherished event in our home and truly a labour of love. It involved a lot of work and preparation but the outcome was always fabulously delicious.
Typically, my grandma would make them in a deep stock pot and boil them until they they reached boiling point then reduce the heat to a slow simmer and leave them to simmer all day long. She would often make them with pickled cabbage (sauerkraut) but that didn’t sit well with my brother and I, we much preferred the sweet taste of a fresh cabbage, nor were we fond of the fragrant scent of the barrel of cabbage heads marinating in the cold cellar; many cultures still prefer them made this way and if you look around specialty stores you may be able to find a vacuumed packed cabbage.
I’ve varied the recipe and started baking them now in purchased aluminum trays where I freeze them so when the need arises for a quick meal they just need to be thawed and heated through. They seem to taste better and better with each re-heating; I suppose it allows the flavours to really meld together.
I have modified the recipe slightly and added my Italian husband’s ultimate favourite ~ Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese; which is optional of course.
The beauty of the cabbage roll is that you can create your own by adjusting the meat/rice ratio and adjusting the seasonings to your taste. Even adding some finely minced veggies will create a taste all its own.
1 large blanched cabbage (cored)
2 pounds of ground beef (I prefer chuck)
2 pounds of pork
2 cups of white rice
2 tbsp Italian seasoning
3 minced garlic cloves
1 large minced onion
4 tsp salt
4 tsp pepper
2 cups tomato sauce + extra
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese
A few ounces of smoked/cured bacon or Pancetta
Core large head of cabbage and blanch in a large stock pot for about 15 minutes so that all the leaves easily slide off.
In a large bowl mix all ingredients together blending well. I wash off my rice and occasional par-boil it only to reduce the amount of starch; using uncooked rice could make the cabbage rolls harder and you really want them on the firmer side and not too hard. You want them such that they can be cut easily with a fork.
Remove a few of the outer leaves of cabbage and julienne them as the bedding for the cabbage rolls and cut the thick hard stems from each leaf. Optional, spread out a few pieces of smoked/cured bacon or Pancetta for enhanced flavour.
Now the tricky part; filling the cabbage roll! Spread open a leaf of cabbage either on your work space or in your hand and fill with a generous amount of meat filling starting at the base of the leaf, quickly fold over those ends on top of the meat tightly and then flap over each side of the cabbage snugly and roll.
Place the roll seam side down until the pan/tray is full.
Top with tomato juice so that all the rolls are completely covered.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350F for about 1 hour and reduce heat to 300F and continue to bake for about another hour.
Cabbage rolls go great with choice of potato, noodles and crusty bread like Italian bread, a nice rye or pumpernickel.
Recipe will make approximately 24 rolls if not more depending on the size of the cabbage.
Enjoy our how to video!