Stuffed Cabbage

Stuffed Cabbage

Stuffed Cabbage 2560 1920 Daryl Duarte

Stuffed Cabbage

It is Russian Christmas today, and it is a tradition in my husband’s family to serve this dish for their holiday meal. David’s grandmother, Babu, was the mistress of the stuffed cabbage, and “taking the mantle” to create this for his family was a nerve-racking endeavor - especially in my early attempts. This type of dish, made through the generations, is a lovely way to maintain traditions. It is an old-fashioned peasant dish - and I am an old-fashioned peasant - so it suits me perfectly. It does not break the bank either - and you can add an array of condiments to send the flavor profile right through the roof with both piquant and puckery elements. I hope you enjoy this as much as we do. Here is to David’s Babu, a woman who made it all possible!


  • 1 large head of cabbage
  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 large onion finely diced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large clove garlic finely diced
  • 1 cup uncooked white rice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 cups water
  • 1.25 lbs Kielbasa sausage, sliced into 1" pieces
  • 1 cup of sauerkraut
  • 1 28 oz can of chopped tomatoes
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • additional Olive oil for assembling the casserole.


To cook the rice

  • In a heavy bottom pan with a tight-fitting lid, add rice, 2 cups of water, one bay leat, 1 clove of garlic, and ½ teaspoon salt. Bring the rice mixture to a boil over high heat, stir once, cover, reduce heat to simmer – and cook for 20 minutes. Do not remove the lid. After 20 minutes, turn the heat off, remove from the burner if electric – and let sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Then, put the cooked rice in a large metal mixing bowl. Set aside.

To cook the onions

  • Place a large skillet over medium heat, and allow it to get hot. Add three tablespoons of olive oil and chopped onion and garlic. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon kosher salt, and ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Sauté gently until soft and translucent. Do not brown. Add the cooked onion to the rice in the large mixing bowl.

To cook the beef

  • Place a large skillet over medium heat, and allow it to get hot. Add the ground beef. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon kosher salt, and ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Sauté gently until cooked. Do not brown. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat into a wire strainer set into a metal bowl and drain off the excess fat. Then add the meat to the rice and onion mixture. Discard excess fat.

Finish seasoning the rice/beef/onion mixture

  • Add the parsley, mix the ingredients with a large spoon, and taste seasoning. Add salt and pepper if necessary. Then, add the beaten eggs and mix thoroughly.

Boil the cabbage and peel the leaves off

  • This takes some practice. Fill a large stockpot ¾ full of water and lower the cabbage into the pot to make sure the water displacement does not cause the water to spill over the rim. Adjust the water level if necessary. Bring the water to a boil. Use a small paring knife and remove the core/stem of the cabbage – as much as you can. (This allows the leaves to peel off as the cabbage cooks in the boiling water.) Place the cored cabbage in the boiling water. After a few minutes, use some tongs to remove the outer leaves – as many as peel off easily. Submerge them in the boiling water as they peel off – several at a time. Wait a minute or two, and then transfer them to a cold-water bath to stop them from cooking. Continue this process, peeling the outermost leaves off as the cabbage continues to cook in the boiling water. If the leaves do not peel off easily – you will have to remove the cabbage from the hot water and remove some more of the core – to free the inner leaves. To handle the cabbage, run it under cold water to cool it off enough to use the paring knife. Once all the leaves have been submerged in ice water, drain in a colander. Set aside until ready to assemble the casserole.

To assemble the casserole

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Ladle ½ cup of tomato into the bottom of a large lasagna pan. Add a few pinches of sauerkraut to the bottom—dot with some olive oil.
  • Lay the cabbage leaf flat, and using a small paring knife, shave the thickest part of the leaf’s rib down, so it is thinner - and more flexible. Then, lay the leaf flat on the work surface.   Add about ¼ to ½ cup of filling to the leaf – more for the larger cabbage leaves – and less for smaller ones.  Roll the leaves over the filling, as artfully and carefully as you can, to secure the filling in a blanket of cabbage.  Place the finished rolls, seam side down, into the prepared pan.   Don’t pack them too tightly – as you need room for the other ingredients.    
  • Distribute the kielbasa, sauerkraut, and tomato evenly over the finished rolls. Add about 1 cup of water to the casserole dish. Cover with lightly oiled parchment or wax paper, then again with aluminum foil and bake for 1 ½ hour at 325 degrees.  Serve it very hot.  You can also make this dish ahead - it gets better with age.  Let cool, then refrigerate.  Take the casserole out of the refrigerator 2 hours before cooking – and then reheat for 45 minutes or until steaming hot.    
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