Cabbage Rolls

My mother was a terrific cook and known to many as a restaurant chef, so I laugh at myself for the number of terrific meals she would create that as a child I would not eat. One of these is Cabbage Rolls, and while I cannot remember when the tide changed, today it is one of our all-time favorite comfort foods.

Maybe someone told me that cabbage was good for me, which always seems to nix a child’s taste buds, but they wouldn’t have been wrong. Cabbage is said to be one of the first plants ever cultivated (3000 to 4000BC), and by the rise of the Roman empire, was recognized for its medicinal value to treat gout, headaches and intestinal disorders. Apparently, the Romans would even gorge on cabbage before a night of binge drinking to avoid a hangover, – but I’m told they got this wrong – I think this needs more testing? None the less, many say it was likely the Greeks who first invented this wonderful food.

Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh on

Whether you call them Golabki, golubki, holubky, or stuffed cabbage, the thing I notice most about cabbage rolls is the sense of pride unveiled when someone shares their version that can usually be traced back through family history and tradition – it’s a dish that just screams warmth and togetherness, and that is probably why my mother loved them!

This recipe is a wonderful version and combines the talents of a celebrity’s mother (Martha Stewart’s late mother) and another wonderful kitchen talent, our sister in-law Janet.

Cabbage Rolls Recipe – Serves 8 (2 each and then some)

The Cabbage Leaves – Don’t get fussed about this as it is Easy Peasy

  • Core 1 Head of Cabbage: Use a paring knife at 45% angle and cut around the core to remove
  • Peeling the leaves: Boil the cored head of cabbage in a large pot of salted water. After about 4 minutes the outer leaves will begin to fall away from the head. As the leaves loosen, use tongs to remove. Continue until you have the amount needed – we had about 24 and they do get smaller throughout the process.
  • Use coring knife to thin out thick vine ends
Cored head of cabbage in large pot of water
Cored head of cabbage in large pot of water
Boil cored cabbage
Boil cored cabbage
Outer cabbage leaves will fall away – remove with tongs

The Sauce

  • 1 can spaghetti sauce, 1 can tomato sauce, 3 tbsp brown sugar, 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar, 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, ladle in 1 cup of boiled cabbage water when cabbage is done
  • Simmer sauce on low heat

The Filling – mix filling in large bowl

  • 2 medium sized cooking onions diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic diced
    • Sautee onion and garlic in olive oil and butter until soft and opaque
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 4 cups of cooked rice – a tad undercooked is best but not a show stopper
  • 5 celery sticks finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp ea. salt and pepper
  • 4 tbsp dried parsley
Cabbage roll filling
Cabbage roll filling

Wrapping the filling in the cabbage leaves

  • Starting from the large vein end, wrap filling while tucking in the sides. The amount of filling is dependent on the size of the leaf. There is no right or wrong here but be sure to wrap the filling completely.
Boiled cabbage leaf
Boiled cabbage leaf
Wrapping the filling in cabbage leaves
Wrapping the filling in cabbage leaves
Layer cabbage rolls in pot
Layer cabbage rolls in pot
  • We like to line the bottom of the pot with remaining cabbage leaves  saving some to cover the top
  • Layer cabbage rolls in your pot. We had 3 layers – could be more or could be less depending on size of pot
  • Poor in sauce to the top of the cabbage rolls
  • Cover top with remaining leaves
  • Sprinkle 2 diced apples over top and cover with lid
  • Cook on stove top at medium and simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes: READY!
Cook cabbage rolls on stovetop
Cook cabbage rolls on stovetop

The 10,000 dollar question always seems to be what do you serve with cabbage rolls? Well…..there’s really no need to serve anything however we like to serve over mashed potatoes flavoured with sour cream and paired with a fruity Chianti!

Bon appetit!

Cabbage roll with mashed potatoes
Cabbage roll with mashed potatoes

6 thoughts on “Cabbage Rolls

  1. My mother made cabbage rolls frequently and, for the sauce, she used her home-made chili-sauce and/or homemade ketchup, much tastier than the store-bought stuff. We always ate far more than two apiece — we were growing farm kids — so Mom always made a roaster full which might have served for two meals! Yes, we were gluttons but they were so good!


  2. I’ve wanted to make cabbage rolls for years and it always sounded so hard. I’m looking forward to trying these this year! Thanks for sharing!

    Do these freeze well?


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