There have been always two competing Belarusian dishes for me when I was little – stuffed cabbage (called “golubtsy” in Eastern Europe) and stuffed bell peppers, and I could never quite decide which one was a winner. From one hand, the bell peppers infused the filling with an incredible bitter-sweet depth as they were braising low and slow for over an hour, but the stuffed cabbage, on the other hand, always turned out much heartier and more satisfying. Well, I am still not sure which dish I like better, but the good thing is that if you follow seasons in your cooking and eating, the decision is already made for you – and it is time for cabbage now!
This recipe of stuffed cabbage is, like many others in this blog, just a blank canvas for your creativity. In the vegetarian version of it, you could chop the leftovers of the blanched cabbage and add those to the filling instead of ground pork. Or you could substitute your favorite herbs and spices for the ones that I suggest here. Finally, instead of braising stuffed cabbage in the tomato sauce, you could just use water or vegetable or chicken stock as a braising liquid – the result will be not as hearty and complex but still very enjoyable.
Active time: 45 minutes | Total time: 1 hour and 45 minutes | Serves: 6
1 savoy or green cabbage
1 cup cooked rice
1 lb ground pork
2 tbs butter or olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, grated
1 bunch green onions or chives
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp thyme
1 tsp salt
Freshly milled pepper
1/4 cup crème fraîche or Greek yogurt
For tomato sauce:
2 tbsp olive oil
3 large heirloom tomatoes, chopped
Bunch of basil, chopped
3 garlic gloves, minced
Salt and pepper
Prepare 12 of the cabbage leaves for stuffing – bring water to boil in a pot big enough to hold the cabbage. Cut deeply around the core at the base of the cabbage (don’t try to remove it). Immerse the cabbage in the boiling water for about 5 minutes, then carefully lift it out. Peel off 12 leaves. Return the cabbage to the water for additional softening if you need, and repeat.
Heat the butter in a pan and add the chopped onion, carrot, green onions, herbs and spices, season with salt and pepper and saute over medium heat until onions and carrots are soft (about 15 minutes). To prevent the vegetables from sticking to the pan, add a splash of water while you are cooking them and stir occasionally.
Transfer the vegetables to the mixing bowl and combine them with rice, ground pork and crème fraîche. Season with salt and pepper and mix well.
Set the cabbage leaves smooth side down on the counter. Stuff each leaf with a hipping quarter of a cup of the filling in the following manner: first, place a portion of the filling on the base of each leaf just about the notched area, then fold the ends neatly around it, and roll.
Make the tomato sauce: heat olive oil over medium heat in a sauce pan, add tomatoes, garlic and basil. Cover and cook on low-medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking down the tomatoes with a wooden spatula. Watch the pan to make sure it isn’t dry, adding a splash of water, if needed.
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Place the stuffed cabbage in a single layer in a baking dish and add the tomato sauce. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour.
Spoon some tomato juice on the plates and serve the stuffed cabbage over it, with crème fraîche or sour cream on a side.