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Delicious Stuffed Cabbage Rolls Recipe

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Stuffed cabbage rolls are a classic comfort food that brings together the hearty flavors of ground beef, rice, and savory tomato sauce all wrapped in tender cabbage leaves. This dish, often associated with Eastern European cuisine, is perfect for family dinners, special occasions, or simply when you crave a filling, flavorful meal. Here’s how to make a delicious stuffed cabbage rolls recipe.

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Ingredients

For the Tomato Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons butter: Adds richness to the sauce.
  • 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped: Provides a base of flavor.
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced: Adds a savory aroma.
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes (do not drain): Forms the bulk of the sauce.
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce: Enhances the tomato flavor.
  • Salt and pepper to taste: Balances and enhances the flavors.
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar: Adds a touch of sweetness to balance the acidity of the tomatoes.
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar: Adds a slight tanginess to the sauce.

For the Cabbage Rolls

  • 1 pound ground beef (90% lean): Provides the protein base for the rolls.
  • 1 cup cooked rice: Adds texture and helps to bind the filling.
  • 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped: Adds flavor and moisture to the filling.
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced: Enhances the savory taste.
  • 1 teaspoon salt: Essential for seasoning the filling.
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper: Adds a slight heat and depth of flavor.
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped (divided use): Adds freshness and color.
  • 1 egg: Helps to bind the filling ingredients together.
  • 1 head cabbage: The leaves will be used to wrap the filling.
  • Cooking spray: Prevents the rolls from sticking to the baking dish.

Instructions

Step 1: Prepare the Tomato Sauce

  1. Melt Butter: In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.
    • This step ensures the onions and garlic will cook evenly without burning.
  2. Cook Onion and Garlic: Add the finely chopped onion and cook for about 3-4 minutes until softened. Add the minced garlic and cook for an additional minute.
    • Cooking the onions and garlic first releases their flavors and forms the base of the sauce.
  3. Add Tomatoes: Stir in the crushed tomatoes (with their juice) and the tomato sauce.
    • Using both crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce provides a rich, layered tomato flavor.
  4. Season and Simmer: Add salt and pepper to taste, brown sugar, and red wine vinegar. Bring the sauce to a simmer and let it cook for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Adjust seasoning if necessary.
    • Simmering the sauce allows the flavors to meld and the sauce to thicken slightly.

Step 2: Prepare the Cabbage

  1. Boil Cabbage: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Remove the core from the cabbage head and carefully place the whole cabbage in the boiling water. Boil for about 3-5 minutes until the outer leaves start to loosen. Remove the cabbage from the pot and gently peel off the softened leaves. Return the cabbage to the water if needed to soften more leaves.
    • This process softens the cabbage leaves, making them pliable and easy to roll.
  2. Prepare Leaves: Pat the cabbage leaves dry with paper towels and set them aside.
    • Drying the leaves helps them adhere better when rolling and prevents excess water from diluting the filling.

Step 3: Make the Filling

  1. Mix Ingredients: In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, cooked rice, finely chopped onion, minced garlic, salt, pepper, half of the chopped parsley, and the egg. Mix until well combined.
    • Mixing these ingredients ensures each bite of the cabbage roll is flavorful and well-seasoned.

Step 4: Assemble the Cabbage Rolls

  1. Fill and Roll: Place about 1/4 cup of the meat mixture in the center of each cabbage leaf. Fold the sides of the leaf over the filling and roll it up tightly, tucking in the sides as you go.
    • Rolling the cabbage rolls tightly ensures they hold their shape during cooking.
  2. Prepare Baking Dish: Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Spray a large baking dish with cooking spray.
    • Preheating the oven ensures even cooking from the start.
  3. Layer Rolls and Sauce: Pour a small amount of the tomato sauce into the bottom of the baking dish. Place the cabbage rolls seam-side down in the dish, packing them closely together. Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the cabbage rolls.
    • Pouring sauce on the bottom and top of the rolls helps them cook evenly and prevents them from drying out.

Step 5: Bake

  1. Cover and Bake: Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil. Bake in the preheated oven for 75-90 minutes until the cabbage is tender and the filling is cooked through.
    • Covering the dish ensures the rolls stay moist and cook evenly.

Step 6: Serve

  1. Garnish: Garnish the cabbage rolls with the remaining chopped parsley before serving.
    • The parsley adds a fresh, vibrant touch to the finished dish.
  2. Enjoy: Serve hot, with additional sauce spooned over the top if desired.
    • Serving extra sauce enhances the flavor and keeps the rolls moist.

Cooking Notes

Make Ahead:

  • Preparation: You can prepare the cabbage rolls a day in advance and refrigerate them before baking. This allows the flavors to meld together.
  • Freezing: These cabbage rolls freeze well. Assemble the rolls, place them in a baking dish, and cover tightly with foil before freezing. When ready to bake, thaw in the refrigerator overnight and bake as directed.

Variations

  1. Vegetarian Option:
    • Substitute the ground beef with a mixture of cooked lentils and mushrooms for a hearty vegetarian version.
    • Use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth in the tomato sauce.
  2. Different Meats:
    • You can use ground turkey, chicken, or pork in place of the ground beef for a different flavor profile.
  3. Spicier Rolls:
    • Add a pinch of red pepper flakes or a diced jalapeno to the filling for a bit of heat.
  4. Cheesy Cabbage Rolls:
    • Add 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella or cheddar cheese to the filling mixture for a cheesy twist.
  5. Grain Variations:
    • Instead of rice, try using quinoa, bulgur, or couscous for a different texture and flavor.

Tips for Perfect Cabbage Rolls

  1. Choosing the Right Cabbage:
    • Savoy cabbage works well for this recipe due to its tender leaves, but regular green cabbage is also a great choice.
  2. Cooking the Rice:
    • Ensure the rice is cooked and cooled before mixing it with the other filling ingredients to prevent the filling from becoming too sticky.
  3. Even Roll Sizes:
    • Try to make each cabbage roll approximately the same size for even cooking.
  4. Preventing Burns:
    • If the sauce starts to dry out during baking, add a little water or more tomato sauce to keep the rolls moist.
  5. Testing Doneness:
    • Use a meat thermometer to ensure the internal temperature of the filling reaches at least 160°F (71°C).
  6. Serving Suggestions:
    • Serve the cabbage rolls with a side of mashed potatoes, crusty bread, or a simple green salad for a complete meal.

Stuffed cabbage rolls are a delightful and comforting dish that brings a touch of homestyle cooking to your table. With their tender cabbage leaves, flavorful meat and rice filling, and rich tomato sauce, they are sure to be a hit with family and friends. Whether you stick to the classic recipe or try one of the suggested variations, this dish offers a satisfying and wholesome meal that is perfect for any occasion. Enjoy making and sharing these delicious stuffed cabbage rolls!

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