There are a few foods that instantly transport me back to my childhood and this is one of them. The smell of this dish wafting through the house reminds me of simpler times. However, when I was a kid, I didn’t even eat the cabbage. My parents used to let me scoop out and eat just the filling. Now I love ALL of it.
This recipe uses a very American ingredient, ketchup, along with diced tomatoes, which eliminates the need for a lot of other seasonings. If you’re Paleo or Whole30 be sure to look for a compliant ketchup with no added sweeteners or high-fructose corn syrup. The addition of raisins/dates and a little lemon juice makes an unctuous and luscious sweet and sour sauce that will make your house smell amazing.
In Jewish homes this dish is traditionally served for Purim, but I think it’s ideal for any time you want a warm, comforting dish to tickle your tastebuds. It’s also a great dish for company as you can do all the prep work in advance, and pop it in the oven before your guests arrive. Add a big green salad and some warm toasty bread to sop up all of the juices.
If you make this, be sure to tag #grownupdish or @grownup_dish on Instagram so I can share your posts.
For the Filling:
- 1 head cabbage (green, red or Napa), frozen and thawed
- 2 pounds ground beef (or use 1 pound ground beef and 1 pound ground pork)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 cup ketchup, preferably organic
- 1 tablespoon coconut aminos
- ½ cup rice, uncooked (omit for Paleo or Whole30 version)
- 1 small onion or 2 shallots, finely chopped
- 4 – 5 oz. Portobello or white mushrooms, chopped
- Chopped flat leaf parsley
- 2 cloves of minced garlic
For the Sauce:
- 40 ounces of chopped tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 onions, sliced
- 1/2cup ketchup, preferably organic
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1/3 cup coconut sugar (omit for Paleo or Whole30 version)
- 1/3 cup golden raisins or chopped dates (omit for Paleo or Whole30 version)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Put the entire head of cabbage in the freezer for at least a few hours, preferably overnight. Defrost the cabbage before cooking. This step (courtesy of Joan Nathan) wilts the leaves so they are pliable. Alternatively, you can submerge the whole head of cabbage in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes. Separate the cabbage leaves.
- To make the filling: Mix the ground meat, mushrooms, garlic, onion/shallot, salt, pepper, eggs, rice, and ketchup in a large bowl. It’s easiest to mix with your clean hands.
- Pull off a few of the outer cabbage leaves and line the bottom of a 6-quart casserole dish or dutch oven. This will keep the cabbage rolls from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- Place approx.. ¼ cup of the filling on each cabbage leaf. The amount of filling you can use will vary based on how big the leaves are. Tuck the ends in and roll up like a burrito. Place cabbage rolls, seam side down, in the baking dish.
- To make the sauce: In a large saucepan, saute sliced onions in olive oil for a few minutes until softened and fragrant. Add salt and pepper. Then add the tomatoes, tomato paste, ketchup, the juice of one lemon, coconut sugar, and raisins/dates. Bring mixture to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes, covered.
- Pour the tomato sauce over the cabbage rolls in the casserole dish. Cover with lid (or foil).
- Bake at 350 degrees for 90 minutes, and then uncover for an additional 20 minutes, adding water if sauce starts to look dry.
- Optional: Stir in 4 ounces of sour cream to tomato mixture before serving.
- Plate the stuffed cabbage rolls right from casserole dish or (if you’re feeling really fancy), put them onto a serving platter, and spoon the sauce over the top.
- Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.
You could easily split this recipe into two batches. Make one now and freeze a second one for later. If freezing, complete steps 1-6 and then put the entire dish into the freezer, labeling it to be baked at 350 degrees for 2 hours once it’s defrosted.
Once cooked, the leftovers reheat and keep beautifully for several days.
For Paleo or Whole30 version, omit the rice and coconut sugar, and use a compliant ketchup.