Mom’s Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

This recipe for cabbage rolls is the basic Eastern European version that we knew as kids: a savory melding of rice and ground meat rolled in cabbage leaves and smothered in thick tomato sauce. It was always served with sour cream.

Mom would make a whole turkey pan full of cabbage rolls, enough to feed the six of us and more for at least  two or three sittings. As the leftovers sat and aged in their sauce over the next few days, the taste intensified and filled out… I always preferred leftover cabbage rolls over freshly made ones.

There are endless variations of cabbage rolls. One Ukrainian version is pickled cabbage leaves (sauerkraut style) stuffed  with fried onions, ground meat, and buckwheat and baked in a meaty broth instead of tomato sauce. Similar cousins  are rice and lamb stuffed grape leaves in Middle Eastern cuisine.

Ingredients for Mom’s Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

  • 1 head of cabbage
  • 1 lb. mixed ground beef and ground pork (either half and half or slightly more beef than pork)
  • 1 finely minced onion
  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1-1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 t pepper
  • 1 large can tomato soup + 3 T ketchup*
  • 1 cup water
  • Sour cream for serving

Core cabbage. Place in large pot of boiling water with a splash of vinegar. Cook 5 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and let stand 10 to 15 minutes to cool. Sauté onion in a little butter. Mix together the ground beef, onion, rice, salt and pepper. Separate cabbage leaves. Shave off the ribs. Put a large spoonful of meat mix at the base of each leaf and roll up tightly. May fasten with toothpicks. Place in an oiled oven pan, nestling the rolls together so they won’t unroll. Mix together the tomato juice, catchup, and water. Pour over cabbage rolls. Bake, covered, at about 325 F for 1-1/2 hours.

These are best removed from the oven and let sit to settle and thicken the sauce a bit before serving. Place bowls of thick sour cream on the table, and mound a large tablespoonful of the cream on each cabbage roll before eating.

* Mom always swore by Aylmer’s tomato soup instead of tomato puree for making real Cabbage rolls., but it wasn’t always easy to find.

cabbage for cabbage rolls