Savory Cabbage Rolls

Cabbage rolls.

Are they a Polish dish or a Swedish dish?  A Russian dish or a German Dish?

I have no idea.

All I know is that I tend to crave them around Saint Paddy’s Day.  (So to me, they are an Irish dish!)



Never thought I would ever crave such a thing as a cabbage roll.

As kids, my sisters and I would wear tall socks to the table whenever Momma served cabbage rolls.  During the course of the meal, we would gobble up the meatball and then very carefully sneak the cabbage into our socks.  Once dinner was over, we’d ride our bikes to the end of the street and dump the leaves in the bushes.

Yes.  We were naughty, ungrateful children.

But somewhere between the ages of 6 and 31, I grew to love these little nuggets of comfort.  I find they are like pot-stickers…only healthier!

Savory Cabbage Rolls

This recipe is my adaptation of Smitten Kitchen’s Stuffed Cabbage Rolls and Italian Stuffed Cabbage Rolls.

(The entry has great step-by-step photos which is why I am not posting as many of my own…)


Photo courtesy of Smitten Kitchen. Yum!

To Prepare:

Fill a large pot halfway with water and bring to a boil.

Parboil about 16-20 Napa cabbage leaves in small batches for about 30-45 seconds until the leaves are soft and pliable.


Remove leaves with tongs and place on a towel to dry.

NOTE: Make sure to remove all excess water from leaves or your dish will turn out watery.

Using a paring knife, cut out the thick center stem.  (This stem kinda gets in the way and makes the rolls…well…hard to roll.)


In a small bowl add 1 heaping cup of bread crumbs.  Pour 2/3 cup whole milk over the bread crumbs and stir to combine.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine:

  • 1 lb ground beef (or chicken or turkey or sausage…)
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, small-diced
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme
  • Large pinch of fennel seeds

Mix all together until just combined.

Stir in breadcrumbs until just combined.

Roll meat into 16-20 two-inch balls.  Place one ball in the middle of a cabbage leaf and wrap the leaf over the ball.

NOTE: I prefer to make little pouches, but you can also roll them like an egg roll.

Set the pouch seam-side down in the bottom of a Dutch oven or large pot.  Repeat with the rest of the meat and cabbage.

Pour one 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes over the rolls.  Sprinkle a teaspoon of salt evenly over the tomatoes.


Bring pot to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat, cover pot and simmer on low heat for 45 minutes.

Serve hot.  (And with a pint of ale while you’re at it.)


As a lass I was not very smart,

Because cabbage would cause me to dart,

But then I turned old,

And craved cabbage rolls,

Now the leaf is my favorite part!

Happy [Early] Saint Patrick’s Day!