italian stuffed cabbage

Prior to November, what I knew of stuffed cabbage rolls were limited to the Jewish/Eastern European variety, which I make the way my mother-in-law does. I hadn’t given it further thought because as far as I was concerned, it was never broken, and needed little improvement, and when there’s little room for me to tinker in the kitchen, I quickly lose interest. But if I had, it might have occurred to me that cabbage, being one of the ultimate peasant foods, has probably been wrapped around meat that’s been ground and then stretched (always budget-minded, those peasants) with other ingredients and cooked in a sauce in a zillion different ways over the centuries. And oh, the fun we might have been having this whole time.

peeling the savoy
big floppy cabbage leaves

As it turns out, it could be argued that any region that can grow large cabbage leaves is indeed stuffing them with something. The most cursory of Google searches leads one on a tour of Greek lahanodolmathes, stuffed with ground beef and rice and covered with a traditional egg and lemon (avgolemono) sauce; French chou farci, stuffed with beef or pork, sometimes mushrooms, wrapped in large layers of cabbage leaves and served in wedges; Polish gloabki, or “little pigeons,” with pork and beef, and rice or barley (sigh); Slovak holubky or halupki; Serb or Croatian sarma with (hold me) sauerkraut and ham hocks, and Arabic mahshi malfouf which adds lemon juice, cinnamon and mint (swoon) to the usual ground meat and rice medley. And guys, I’m just getting started. The idea that there are this many ways to fall in love with stuffed cabbage torments me, and leaves me daydreaming about a Westeros-length winter wherein we could audition each one.

quickly blanching the cabbage leaves

limp cabbage leaves, draining
a hunk of old whole wheat sourdough
torn up bread, mashed with milk
pare the stem if it's too thick
meatball center

For today, however, I am just going to take you to Italy, via Vancouver, in a tiny, wonderful restaurant called La Quercia, where everything I thought I knew about stuffed cabbage was hatched open by a single appetizer shared by a group in a sea of dishes that was so delicious, I am not sure anyone but me noticed. But still, I haven’t been able to forget it. I did what I always do when an idea obsesses me, I jotted it near the top on a list of recipe ideas that I swear, stretches longer than Manhattan right now, and vowed to find my way back to it as soon as possible. It wasn’t even necessary, because three months later, it came to me, when my favorite English person in Rome wrote about none other than mondeghini in/al sugo.

pin it shut with a toothpick
line them up
pinned packets

You could say I ran to the kitchen. And yet, when a dish torments you as long as this one has and you finally have a potential path to unlocking its greatness at home, am I the only one who melodramatically fears disappointment? Will this really be it at last? Will it take another twenty rounds to get it right — will the perfectly seasoned, tender, featherlight meatballs wrapped lovingly inside a gorgeous doily of a cabbage leaf all still elude me? Will it have the simple sauce, flecked with bright, plump tomato bits? Or will be the a cruel victory, a dish that’s in fact perfect, but such a pest to make that you’ll only do so once a year.

"chopping" the tomatoes
parcels, about to simmer

Not this one; this one exceeded every expectation. Not only did it taste exactly as good as I remembered it, but it was the easiest stuffed cabbage I have ever made: there’s just about nothing to chop, no pile of mirepoix that you must work your knife through, again and again. You really don’t saute a thing; there are no chopped onions that are promised to soften and sweeten in 5 minutes but actually take 15. There were no false promise of profound flavor that fall weakly on the plate. My goodness, even the (currently) pickiest three year-old on earth applauded these “meatballs,” and when this happens, I encourage you to buy double what you need, because you’ll be making it again that very week.

stuffed cabbage in tomato sauce

One year ago: Double Coconut Muffins
Two years ago: White and Dark Hearted Brownies and Green Bean Salad with Frieds Almonds
Three years ago: Chocolate Souffle Cupcakes with Mint White Chocolate Cream and Spaghetti with Cheese and Black Pepper
Four years ago: Toasted Coconut Shortbread, Devil’s Chicken Thighs and Hot Fudge Sauce
Five years ago: Seven Yolk Pasta Dough, Best Chocolate Pudding, Pasta Puttanesca + Broken Artichoke Hearts Salad
Six years ago: Mom’s Chocolate Chip Meringues and Vegetable Dumplings

Italian Stuffed Cabbage [Mondeghini al sugo]
Adapted from Rachel Eats, who adapted it from from Giorgio Locatelli’s recipe in Made in Italy and Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book.

This dish is a mid-winter delight, budget-minded, not terribly complicated to make, hearty and delicious — wilted cabbage leaves, a tender meatball and a simple, bright sauce. It went instantly into our rotation of favorite cold-weather dishes.

The recipe’s original measurements were in metrics; I have done my best to translate them, but not accurately as I made some tweaks (slightly higher proportion of sausage to bread, etc.) to taste.

For the bread, you can use white bread (as originally called for) or whatever you have around. I had a day-old hunk of whole wheat sourdough miche that was absolutely delicious in here, and I was happy to rescue it. If necessary, the bread can be soaked in water instead of milk. Chicken sausage could probably replace the pork nicely. And if you’re like me, and totally forgot to get fresh herbs, and skip them, nothing terrible happens since the sausage should already be well-seasoned. Cabbage rolls are typically formed like an egg roll — folded in sides, rolled up filling — but I was so taken by the packets we had in Vancouver, wrapped almost like a wine bottle and pinned at the top for cooking only, that I wanted to emulate that here. Any shape will work.

Makes approximately 12 cabbage rolls; a serving can range from 2 (petitely) to 3 per person. I took Rachel’s lead and served it with mashed potatoes; these are decadent.

1 large savoy cabbage
7-ounce (200-gram) hunk of bread (see above), crusts cut away, torn into small scraps (you’ll have about 3 loose cups of scraps)
2/3 cup (approximately 150 ml) whole milk
14 ounces (400 grams) or approximately 4 plain pork sausages (I used sweet — i.e. non-spicy — Italian), casings removed
1 small sprig of sage, finely chopped
1 small sprig of rosemary, finely chopped
2 tablespoons grated parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 28-ounce can peeled plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced

Prepare cabbage: Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Discard any messy or broken outer cabbage leaves and carefully peel 12 nice, large leaves. (I think the cabbage can tell if you’re in a rush, and will tear more easily. Work carefully. That said, a torn leaf will hardly ruin the dish.) Blanch leaves for about 30 seconds to 1 minute (you can do a few at at time), until wilted, and spread out on towels so that they dry and cool.

Make filling: Place bread scraps in bottom of large bowl and pour milk over. Let sit for a few minutes, then mash it gently with a spoon until something close to a paste forms. Mix with sausage meat, herbs, parmesan and a pinch or two of salt and black pepper; I find this easiest with a fork or bare hands.

Make the cabbage rolls: Lay your first cabbage leaf on the counter. If it doesn’t want to lay flat, pare away some of the thickest stalk (with a paring knife or vegetable peeler) to make it easier. Form some of the filling mixture into a golf ball-sized round. Wrap cabbage leaf around it (see Note about shape up top) and pin at the top with a toothpick. Repeat with remaining leaves and mixture.

Make the sauce: To prepare your tomatoes, either break them up with your hands (for bigger chunks), run them through a food mill or roughly chop them right in their can with scissors (what I did here). In a heavy saute pan with a lid or a medium (5 to 6-quart) Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for about 30 seconds (just until golden, not a moment longer) then add the tomatoes, bringing the sauce to a gently boil. Season with salt if needed. Add cabbage packages, arranging them carefully in the pan so they all fit, cover the pot and gently simmer them for 25 minutes. Remove the toothpicks and carefully turn the rolls over, cooking them for another 25. Remove the lid and simmer for another 10 minutes to cook off some of the wetness. They’re all cooked now, but if you can rest them for another 15 minutes before eating them, the flavors settle and they become even better.

Okay, now you can dig in. Repeat frequently, yes?

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339 comments on italian stuffed cabbage

  1. Gabby

    AHA! First comment! I have never heard of this… stuffing a cabbage never occurred to me! But that is so exciting – something new – I will have to try it. no shortage of cold weather around here. they will be perfect!

    1. We grew up on the Croatian version of this –pigs in a blanket– using green cabbage, which was simmered whole for a bit to soften and allow easy removal of the leaves. I’m anxious to try these ‘Italian’ gems!

      1. Caroline

        I did a meatless, lazier version tonight:
        In a food processor I ground 1/4c pine nuts, and then added 1/2 package of Yves Italian ground round, 1/2c bread crumbs, 2 eggs, 1tbsp Italian seasoning, salt and pepper, and a bunch of finely grated parmesan, ran the processor until it was well combined but stopping well short of a smooth puree. Formed balls and wrapped and cooked according to recipe. Kids approved it.

    1. jeannine

      I made my grandmother’s (basically this recipe but with a nest of sauerkraut on the bottom of the pan) but made with a lentil and brown rice filing. so delicious!

  2. Talia

    Another way to prepare the cabbage is by freezing the whole head and then defrosting it. That way you get very soft leaves, you don;t burn your fingers AND you do not loose the vitamins!

    1. Donna

      This is what my Polish bf tells me is his gram and dad’s method! My grandma always just blanched the head of cabbage. Freezing it is way better.

      1. Kanakapriya

        Trying this with a mix of tofu and soy granules… didn’t have toothpicks so bit of a mess 😬 but awesome flavours. Always looking for vegan options for my 13 year old.. also so happy to see the messages below… sometimes when I come from Instagram I don’t find these

  3. My mom and grandma (Sicilian) made a similar recipe, using Romano cheese instead of Parmesan…and usually 50/50 beef and pork. The sauce was whatever was on hand – Italians always improvise. Always delicious! Good job with this recipe, it certainly reflects your experience and creativity. Looks yummy. I can relate to the long list (I’ve also got 4 notebooks full)…oh, and great pictures!

  4. Sarah

    So happy to see this post today! I was looking at Italian stuffed cabbage recipes just last night! Your timing could not have been better.

  5. Sydney

    How fun. I, for one, would LOVE to see an around-the-world stuffed cabbage tour! I make my family’s Hungarian version. Will stay tuned for more interesting varieties.

      1. We grew up on the Croatian version of this –pigs in a blanket– using green cabbage, which was simmered whole for a bit to soften and allow easy removal of the leaves. I’m anxious to try these ‘Italian’ gems!

  6. This looks outrageously amazing! I love stuffed cabbage-typically the Eastern European variety as well but this looks so easy and yummy. I just pinned it and will be adding it to the menu for next weekend. I have a feeling my 15 month old son will love it!

  7. amber

    these look absolutely amazing. i was wondering if you had an idea for a substitution for the bread? i can’t really do wheat, but after seeing these photos/reading the recipe, i just have to make them.

    ps love love love your blog and recipes!

    1. Lynda Elkind

      I would try brown rice. No need for the pennade if you aren’t moistening bread, but would add a couple of spoonfuls of plain Greek yogurt to tenderize the pork sausage.

  8. Danielle

    I grew up in Vancouver, and used to live down the street from La Quercia. I never ate there, but it always looked divine, and they had another restaurant kiddie corner, that I did eat at. More affordable, deli, lunch style. So good!

  9. Sam

    this is an eastern European dish too, I like to substitute meat with mushrooms and rice . Pickled cabbage leaves and chopped meat, (sarmale) a Christmas favorite in Romania and Poland…

  10. Amy

    Ah I saw when Rachel first posted this recently. I bookmarked it and am dying to try it, but I think the other variations might be pulling me more tightly… that Arabic one with mint and cinnamon sounds so, so good right now. I hope you get the chance to try all the other around-the-world stuffed cabbages for us all. What a fun project!

  11. You always seems to telepathically read my food cravings! I’ve been thinking about a hearty stuffed cabbage for a while and this is just the inspiration i needed! Thanks Deb!

  12. Wow, I never thought I could get so excited about cabbage! Not only does this dish look delicious (and I’m addicted to cooking things in ragu-style sauces at the moment) but the list of other dishes and possibilities are so tempting and making me hungry! Thanks for sharing :)

  13. Stuffed cabbage recipes have long made me sad, since like Brian, I no longer eat meat. But I do have an amazing recipe for bread-based Italian polpette that contain no meat whatsoever, and I bet they would be amazing here as the filling. Let the recipe testing begin! And then, hopefully, I can make it work for chou farci, which is such a gorgeous dish…

  14. So cool! I too have only known about the eastern European Jewish stuffed cabbage (until now!).
    I’m pregnant right now and cabbage is a HUGE craving of mine, so I’m definitely keen to try making these. Thanks for the inspiration.

  15. Stefanie

    These look delicious! I am wondering whether it would be possible to use minced meat instead of sausage, maybe with some garlic and more herbs. I am no big fan of sausages, I always find their flavour too strong, too fat, too harsh. I would still love to try this recipe, it looks like the perfect answer to all this irritating snow we’ve been having lately…

  16. Mels

    This is too much. I can’t take it. Your blog is overwhelming me with possibilities. I am a terrible cook. Awful. And yet any of your recipes that I make are outstanding. Outstanding I say. It’s just incredible. I made your smashed chickpea salad this weekend – it is my new obsession. Made your brownies last weekend. And now this? Well, this is going in for next weekend. The only reason it’s not being tried sooner is because my goal is no meat this week. Thank you Deb!!

  17. jen

    i’ve made a st pat’s version of a corned beef stuffed cabbage with the boiled potatoes and carrots mixed in with the ground up corned beef. it was a good way to use up leftovers, but i did have to boil new cabbage to make a proper roll

  18. Michelle

    I had to laugh at the timing of these. We just made a vegetarian version of cabbage rolls the other night – I’m waiting for a time when I’m feeling experimental to try the finished result b/c tomato sauce and I have an on/off kind of relationship. The filling was great though, and I’m loking forward to trying them beyond the single bite the other night when I was exhausted and cranky and not feeling very forgiving of my less-favorite foods. Maybe if my husband ever feels like eating meat again, we’ll be able to try these, too!

  19. Sophia Sclafani

    Long time reader, first time commenter.
    I am beyond excited to see you using Sclafani products! :) My great, great, grandfather started the company over 100 years ago, best tomatoes ever! Love your all your recipes, Deb! (And your cook book is divine.) Sending love from Florida!

  20. Stoich91

    Your baby…that video…too cute for words. Ba BUM ba BUM! The way he articulates his eyebrows and pulls back just at the right moments…so musical! Haha not to mention that he is totally Gap Baby Model Status….

    Oh. The cabbages look insanely delish, too! Perfect does of vitamin C for this vicious winter weather! (Currently, in Florida, it’s dropping to 30…which is snopocalypse enough for us! :D)

  21. Mary

    Hi Deb, I can’t wait to try it! One thing I do when preparing stuffed cabbage is put the whole cabbage in a freezer bag and freeze it for two days. I take it out 24 hours before I plan to use it an let it defrost. I have wonderfully soft leaves that are easy to remove from the cabbage head and they’re not hot which makes them easier to handle.

  22. Kristen E

    Oh my gosh, I’m so excited to see this! I LOVE stuffed cabbage in it’s many iterations (I did a lentil, brown rice, and pepita stuffed one when I was a vegetarian) and I absolutely CANNOT WAIT to try this. The necessaries will be going on tomorrow’s grocery list.

  23. Rebecca

    I feel awful even asking this question because it’s the sort of thing I hate to read, but Savoy cabbage? Suppose the normal green would work?, particularly since you blanch it (that would help the green cabbage to not be so tough, I imagine). Never mind, I’ll just try it and find out myself. :) (It’s an extremely timely recipe since I have 2 cabbages in the fridge and that would be a massive amount of coleslaw! Thanks for the wonderful recipes!)

    1. deb

      Rebecca — Don’t feel bad asking a question. That’s what the comments are here for! However, I realize I’ve only made it with savoy (it’s a little thinner and lacier) but I don’t see why you couldn’t use regular old cabbage. I think you’ll need to cook the leaves for a couple minutes, so that they definitely wilt. They might need more paring. And they might be more… present, since they’re thicker. But I have little doubt it wouldn’t still be delicious.

      Sophia — No way! How cool are you? Picked them up because (mumbles) I liked the can, but they quickly became a new favorite brand. They really made this dish sing.

  24. I will be making this with some slight revisions. I will use rice milk instead of whole milk (since I’m allergic to milk), gluten-free bread (for my husband), and a can of crushed tomatoes (since I hate big chunks and food mill is too much work).

  25. Thank you for the link to the vegetarian one, though there are a few brands of vegetarian sausage that also come in casings that might work here. They are certainly crumbly and might just need a bit of egg to mix in to make them more cohesive. I used them in your lentil kale soup and it was awesome!

  26. Ada

    I was wondering where you ended up eating in Vancouver, given the abundant choices we have. I’m glad you liked La Queceria!

    Being Romanian, my mum always makes cabbage rolls wrapped in pickled cabbage, with some smoked ribs cooked in the pot. They’re delicious when I’m in the mood for them, but these look amazing too!

  27. I think my experience with cabbage rolls is the same as yours! That means, that as much as I would love to make these, the pork is out for me! I hope that making these with turkey would be half as good, so I’ll try it out and cross my fingers!

  28. Allison

    This sounds delicious! I live in Germany and cannot find Italian sausage in our town. What spices do you recommend I add to plain ground pork?

  29. I just made my Ukrainian great-grandmother’s recipe for haloupki and I’ve really been on a stuffed cabbage kick. This looks great, and like you say, a new alternative to the eastern European varieties. I love the way this idea is infinitely adaptable, as all the best recipes are.

  30. deb

    I made ukrainian cabbage rolls yesterday for the first time on my own after a visit and lesson with my almost 80-year old mother. So wonderful!

  31. While this seems perfect for this chilly time of year, I’ll try and remember it towards the end of the summer because around here, we always pick up a cabbage or two off the side of the road, a stray that fell off of the farm trucks. I’m always searching for a way to turn that little find into something wonderful. Peasant food, indeed- ha!ha!

  32. CarolJ

    Tomato allergy here, alas. If anyone has ideas about a tasty cooking liquid for this dish that doesn’t involve tomatoes, I’d love to hear them Always loved stuffed cabbage rolls but haven’t made them since developing the allergy to tomatoes.

    1. Melanie Marchand

      Orange juice sorta mojo crillo type? Add black beans? This is off the Friday evening cuff. Ptolly a ton of internet answers. Recently became tomato sensitive myself. Good luck!

    2. Lynda Elkind

      I used canned pumpkin, thineed with a little chicken broth, added nutmeg, salt and pepper. My tomato allergic daughter devoured them.

  33. Kuri

    I’ve always loved cabbage rolls (and like, you, I’d only known the Ukrainian version and didn’t think of any others), but I rarely have time to boil the leaves, so sometimes will just make a casserole, layering the cabbage (shredded) with the beef/rice mixture and tomato sauce. I’m going to try Talia’s idea of wilting the leaves via freezing/thawing sometime soon.

  34. Vickie

    Stuffed cabbage is one of my favorites. Syrian Jews make it with a meat, rice, cinnamon, allspice and salt filling. The sauce is tomato sauce, tamarind, sugar and lemon juice! One of the most amazing winter dishes. I will have to try your version as well :)

  35. Kyla

    This sounds yum! It’s not really stuffed cabbage weather here in Australia at the moment though, so I’ll file this away for when the weather gets cooler. I just checked out your other version as well, and they look great too.

  36. Aw, this recipe conjured up all sorts of warm and fuzzy feelings for me. My mum used to make this for us regularly during the cold winter months. With five little mouths to feed, this dish really stretched the family dollar and was wholly satisfying and delicious!

  37. Susan

    I so know what you mean when you get a taste of something that you just have to make yourself..(because you (meaning me) don’t want to embarrass yourself by deconstructing it at the restaurant where you order it every time you go..which is also way too often, just have another taste of that dish) I am currently going through this with a sweet sour stuffed cabbage from a little German deli and I am obsessed with it. This sounds delicious, too, and I love Italian flavors. Maybe it’ll help me figure something out about the meatball construction in the ones I want to make, as well.

  38. Nina

    I have lived in Vancouver all my life and have never even heard of this restaurant. $50 for a 7 course meal? Yes please! Thanks for the tip Deb, I trust in all you say :)

  39. Kristen

    I love stuffed cabbage but haven’t done it yet this season. Now I’m going to have to, and soon. A quick tip I learned for softening the cabbage requires a bit of forethought but works like a charm. Put the whole head of cabbage in the freezer, let it freeze and then thaw. Then just peel them off and start rolling. The leaves will behave just as nice as you please!

  40. latebloomer

    Vegetarian stuffed cabbage ~ I also grew up with this dish in the Midwest. I have used soy crumbles for the ground sausage/beef. waiting to read of your ‘crazy one’ :)

    1. deb

      Teresa — Just save them for another use. Savoy makes for lovely salads, cut very thinly.

      Nina — I hope you like it. I don’t really like doing restaurant recommendations because who says what we enjoyed, someone else will, etc. Anyway, we went to the freestanding restaurant (which a local friend also told us he preferred). There were five of us and we ordered four tiny pastas (which I will go on about another time, endless, in short: best pastas I have ever eaten, anywhere) plus this and maybe another small plate or two. We never tried any mains.

      Maria — I mention in the recipe that I did as Rachel suggested, and we ate them with mashed potatoes. I am sure roasted potatoes or polenta would be good too.

  41. Maria

    I usually avoid cabbage-heavy recipes and go for the cruciferous cousins of head cabbage when I am cooking (kale, bok choy, etc.) because of bad taste and scent memories from childhood of it boiling on the stove. But then I am reading this, and I cook practically everything you make because your pictures and recipes always jump off the screen, and now cooking with cabbage seems like this incredible adventure. I am off to make some better memories – thank you for another inspiring post!

  42. Angelina

    Veggie style stuff with precooked rice ..Add rice to beaten eggs(1) italian seasoning lots of parmsean cheese and bread crumbs..Stuff cabbage leaved pur Spagette sauce over bake in micro or oven.Yummy

  43. Susie

    So excited to make this for dinner..our version uses cooked rice mixed with the minced meat.. Also add toasted pignolas. Yummy stuff.

  44. –anu

    CarolJ, Estonian version of cabbage rolls uses just water to halway cover the cabbages (usually we use the water from blanching cabbages), flavored with a bit of salt. The cabbage rolls release a lot of flavor themselves and in the end you have broth around them. After lifting the rolls on the plates we sometimes stir a bit of sour cream into the liquid. I have tried using real broth and honestly, I prefer plain ole water.

  45. This speaks to the peasant inside who’s not afraid to admit that cabbage is probably my favorite vegetable. What I like about this recipe is that while it looks perfect as is, it’s also one that allows you to get a little creative if the mood strikes. And, in the kitchen, when doesn’t it strike?

  46. Sally

    It sounds delicious!

    May I politely request a warning if the photo you have posted of Jacob (or anything else) is a video? Not much bandwidth in the rural areas. . . . I love seeing Jacob’s photos, but prefer not to have a video without warning.

  47. Wow. Bread. Haven’t considered that addition…
    I’m also used to the Russian ‘golubsiy’ and have been thinking of ways to revamp them. But alas, you beat me to it ;)

  48. jennifer

    You have a gift for convincing me to try things I would ordinarily just be kind of “Meh” about, and I have never been disappointed in your versions.

  49. Claire

    Deb — these look fabulous! But I’m only a house of one :) Could you freeze these? And if so, would it be best before or after cooking?

  50. My mom made stuffed cabbage for Christmas dinner this year. Probably the best meal we have ever had. I have some savoy sitting in my fridge and one small sausage, so I think I’ll try to make a mini version this weekend.

    Is it odd that cabbage is one of my favorite foods?

  51. Shelly

    Why just yesterday I was saying how I needed a cabbage “roll” of some sort and had picked up all the necessary items for some good old-fashioned holubtsi, but this has piqued my interest instead. Did you know that if you freeze (overnight) and then thaw regular green cabbage it softens enough so that you don’t have to blanch it first. I remember my grandmother doing that when she was making them.

  52. Brenda morrow

    I parboil my leaves 1st then I use a ground meat and pork sausage cook drain . Then replace I put 1 block of cream cheese with seasoning and 1 handful of mozzarella cheese. But I bake them in red gravy and cover with a cheddar and mozzarella blend very good .

  53. Meredith

    How would you adjust the cooking time for turkey meatballs? I’m not a fan of sausage (the Italian in me cringes whenever I verbalize that) and my husband I eating super healthy right now.

  54. A co-worker brought one of these to a pot luck last week and it was yummy! She tried to explain to me how she made it. Now I can just use your recipe. Good timing. So excited to try this!

  55. It must be something in the Mondeghini, my 18 month old claps too, literally, and then rubs some sauce in his hair for good measure. I love that you liked this, posted it and then liked it some more. All the best from a fan in Rome x

  56. I really love cabbages. Adds sweetness into any dish! I’ve honestly never really had stuffed cabbages before. This might be the first time I’m tempted to make some. Seems easy to do ahead as well.

  57. Kaja

    Hi! This looks amazing! Where I come from (Slovenia), we also make the sarma (“sarma” is the singular form; you’d usually say you made “sarme”) with big leaves of sauerkraut! They’re a typical winter dish especially suited to un-souring your stomach on January 1st (I’m never sure adding more sour stuff to a sour tummy is wise, but it works). Will try your (Italian) version some day.

  58. Anna

    A couple of thoughts from the Greek side of things: we make a version of these as you know (with ‘regular’ cabbage BTW). I’d suggest to your readers that to choose a suitable cabbage they should aim for light-for-its-size which will result in a more open, easy-to-peel structure. The way I’ve always removed the leaves combines your two steps: first I cut out a ‘cone’ of the core, then I turn the whole cabbage upside down over boiling water and try (if size permits) to cover. I peel the outside leaves off as they soften. It takes some time, but is an oddly pleasant job.

    We also usually cut out the central stalk (and a pile of them at the bottom of the pot keeps the ‘laxanodolmades’ from sticking) and roll the much softer remainder (large leaves cut in two).

    Fillings are endlessly modifiable, of course. I wanted only to answer two questions above: one, that freezing rice doesn’t result in a nice texture, and, two, that to approximate Italian sausage you need ground pork, fennel seeds, and caraway seeds . . .

  59. Rita Magier

    I love cabbage, but would prefer a vegetarian form of stuffed cabbage. Do you think that a “veggie” ball made with mashed black beans would go with the sauce? And, if so, how would you suggest it be prepared? By the way, I never thought to use savoy cabbage for rolls… I’ve only used regular cabbage. It’s probably easier to roll with savoy since the leaves are not as thick. I’m anxious to experiment with it.

  60. Evie

    I will definitely be trying this! I’m Greek and my grandmother makes the most delicious cabbage rolls stuffed with beef, rice, tomato, and lots of dill. We don’t put the avgolemono sauce on ours. Have you ever tried the Greek stuffed cabbage rolls? I think they are better without the sauce- all they need is a bright sprinkling of lemon juice. :)

  61. kat


    did you know that the trick for your rolls not to open while they ´re cooking is to place a plate, a bit smaller than your pot, facing the rolls. this way they will not move while cooking.
    this food is very traditional from where I come from, but we make it with a sauce of eggs and lemons (avgolemono). the trick is one of that special grandmother tricks that always works.

    wonderful plate!


  62. I am a bit addicted to stuffed cabbage right now; I am having this for dinner! Just wanted to add: for a vegetarian version, try Hugh-Fearnley Whittingstall’s stuffed cabbage in his Veg Everyday book. And to the person who asked whether they could use darker green cabbage, Savoy cabbage is dark green ribby stuff over in the UK and it works perfectly. The pale stuff here is called something more exotic which currently escapes me. And, finally, HFW uses pearl barley or spelt or rice to stuff his so wheat-free is easy to achieve. not sure there is anything more satisfying than rolling up cabbage leaves!

  63. Ann

    I was just reading a recipe on Lidia Bastianich’s website which used ‘sweet Italian sausages’ which I had never heard of before and then I read your scrummy recipe only to have you explain that it means ‘non spicy’ sausages.
    Thanks for the ‘splaining and thanks for the recipe. mmmm.

  64. Sheila bell

    Enjoy your site so much(thank my daughter!) your pictures of the stuffed cabbages got me thinking how to adapt large Brussel sprouts to this method? Like cocktail bite sized? Or will the flavor be compromised? See, what you’ve done? This will have me researching all day!

  65. Thanks Deb for posting this! Stuffed cabbage rolls are a staple of Piedmontese cuisine too. We call them capunet. @Amber (comment #16), we use boiled and mashed potatoes instead of bread and a mix of 50/50 ground beef and sweet sausage. I also add some of the blanched cabbage leaves cut in strips, for a tastier, smoother bite. Our rolls get baked in the oven, smothered in gravy and bathed in stock, whatever you have on hand (@CarolJ, this might interest you).
    It’s almost lunchtime here and I am sooo hungry… :P

  66. Linkevica

    Can I use any ground meat (beef, pork) instead of sausage? What seasonings should I add? I don’t trust in ready made meats around here.

  67. Robin

    Diet for a Small Planet (if you can find it) had a vegetarian version of stuffed cabbage made with brown rice. It was made with one of two sauces. I think one was yogurt-based and the other — the one I prefer — was tomato. I make my mother’s stuffed cabbage which is on the sweet and sour side. The meat filling is ground beef, rice, onions, garlic and salt and pepper. The tomato sauce is seasoned with lemon juice (or citric salt) and brown sugar and I throw in raisins, too, for added sweetness. I also put shredded cabbage on the bottom of the pot to keep the rolls from sticking. Haven’t made this in a while and now really have the urge!

  68. Sarah

    These look yummy! My family makes stuffed cabbage with beef, rice, sauerkraut, and tomato sauce. The recipe was never actually written down, and of course nobody makes it quite as good as grandma did. It’s still a family favorite though!

    1. deb

      mary — Toothpicks were used.

      Linkevica — My main concern with using straight ground meat is that it will not be seasoned the way sausage is. This dish relies on the sausage’s seasonings for flavor, allowing you to not have to add the usual mix of sauteed onion or garlic and spice. So, I think ground meat would work just fine, but you’ll want to bump up the flavor in other ways.

      ann — Yes, I added the clarification because I called for them in a soup recipe a few weeks ago and many people were confused. “Sweet” definitely is confusing, as they are not. “Non-spicy” would make more sense, but of course be harder to find at a store.

      Meredith — I wouldn’t expect the cooking time to be any different.

      Claire — It should definitely freeze well. But you can also half the recipe (14.5 ounce can tomatoes, 2 sausages, etc.)

      Sally — I understand the concern, but it does not automatically play, right?

  69. Renate

    For a vegetarian version you could use a variety of mushrooms, and/or peppers, zucchini, eggplant, onion, garlic ….. diced and roasted or sauteed in a pan.
    For a gluten free version you can use rice or Quinoa.

  70. Sharlotte

    If you are up to trying new stuffed cabbage recipes from other cultures, then look up the French version from Jacques Pepin. He and Julia Child made it on their 1990’s cooking series, “Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home.” This is for an entire stuffed cabbage, not individual leaves. It makes a for a fun presentation. The recipe can be found in their accompanying book. Here is a link to the recipe:

  71. Amazing!
    I was cooking and in the meantime I was reading the new post of my favorite blogs. When I stop on these photos, I look, I look in my pot and say: “No way!” :)

  72. Katie C.

    The first time that I heard of that trick of putting the cabbage in the freezer was from Julia Child.

    I just made cabbage soup yesterday and only used half of the cabbage but unfortunately, I cut it down the middle so I don’t have any whole leaves left, darn it!

  73. Michelle

    Deb, I beg you to start work on the Croatian/Serb version! My family descends from Eastern Europeans, so I too have only prepared stuffed cabbage that way. But sauerkraut and ham hocks??? Yum!

  74. Anna Lisa

    While not a vegetarian, I am newer cook and fearful of cooking meat. I got brave and made this last – it was so easy and came out perfectly! Only thing is that I had quite a bit of extra filling, but that just meant extra rolls.
    Also, to accommodate my lacto- and gluten-light diet, I skipped the bread and milk in about half of the rolls. They were just as delicious (although not as rich) as the breaded rolls. Thank you Deb!!

  75. This is one of my most cherished dishes! My grandfather made the best Polish Golabki (gah-woomp-ki). He used to drape thick slices of bacon on top of each roll to keep them moist during baking. I love his recipe with all my heart and cannot wait to try the little meatball version you have so sweetly made!

  76. Helen

    Being Polish, we had stuffed cabbage (golombki) a lot. On Friday’s during Lent my mother would often make them with Buckwheat groats, Kasha, which made them meatless and they were delicious.

  77. Ale

    Hi Deb, I am from Italy. Another interesting variation of this recipe uses a risotto filling instead of bread. The risotto is prepared with sausage and cabbage, so you get more of the cabbage flavor inside… You made me crave stuffed cabbage now!

  78. Patty

    Hi Deb – One question…where did you get those fantastical looking toothpicks? I have never seen them anywhere. And can’t wait to make these. I grew up with the holubka (Slovak) version, but no one can make them like my Grandma could so I am happy to have a new favorite.

  79. Growing up we stuffed not only cabbage leaves, but grape leaves, as well, since we had grape vines growing right in our garden. The filling was usually ground sausage or ground meat with the herbs plus rice sometimes. Oh, childhood memories!

  80. Lauren

    So impressed that you have Sophia Sclafani as a “groupie”! The can graphics ARE amazing, and I am sure the product is as well. Will try them this once, but I generally buy a “no sodium” version. I find them nearly like “real” garden tomatoes in any preparation. No sodium canned goods, no sodium cottage cheese, and “hint-of-salt” crackers have changed my life, and made a lot of creativity possible for me, that once was prohibited.I even have my non-blood-pressure-concerned thirty-something “kids” converted based on flavor alone. Good health and good flavor in one package is definitely a win-win at any age. Can’t wait to eat these yummy little bundles.

  81. I just finished making paczki for Fat Tuesday last week, made beef shank and sausage ragu this past weekend, and this looks like the perfect way to make my Italian half and my Polish half happy in one bite.

    Also, I had to laugh about the golabki (I think you switched the o and l, btw)–I was just writing that the very few Polish words I know sound so much better than they look written out. See paczki (poonchki!) and golabki (gwumpki!) for perfect examples.

  82. I love how rustic this dish is. I’ve only had cabbage rolls once in my life (I’m assuming they’re similar to these) and I remember being unimpressed, as a kid. But since every food I disliked while young has since redeemed itself, I think these deserve another shot! Thanks for the simple recipe!

  83. Thank you for this post! I am a huge fan of cabbage, and in the past I’ve wondered why more people don’t share my sentiment. I’m so glad you do, and by the number of messages on this post, it looks like a lot of others do as well! Each time I eat cabbage I have a sentimental reminder of my childhood. My mother made a delicious but very simple stuffed cabbage (in our case with ground beef, just a few spices, but no bread scraps) dish fairly often.

  84. I’ve got this simmering on the stove right now and the aroma is killing me! Can’t wait to dig in. I couldn’t find sausage (tricky to get good ones here in Tel Aviv) so I made my own combination on ground chicken, fennel seeds, salt, pepper, and chili flakes as a substitute. Thanks for another great recipe, Deb!

  85. Kathleen

    Deb, I am going to miss you coming to Raleigh (next to where I work in downtown) as I will be in New Jersey celebrating my nephew’s first birthday. I have to tell you, I recieved your book as an early wedding gift from my family…and my sister had you sign it for me in Bridgewater NJ. I am using the book as our guest sign in at our upcoming wedding! Thank you for making my life so much more delicious!

  86. Susan

    Thank you Deb for providing such wonderful recipies, and thanks also to the comments which provide additional versions. I would like to offer this suggestion to the person allergic to tomato: do an Internet search for possible substitutes. For 18 years I was allergic to a dozen common foods and learned to adapt recipies. While the result was not identical to the original recipe, it worked. For example, tomatoes are sweet and acidic; therefore, sweet vegetables plus something acidic should work. Carrots and balsamic vinegar or citrus? Squash, sweet potatoes, or pumpkin plus an acidic element like vinegar and soy sauce to increase the savoryness? I’d think you could try a zillion combinations. Also, any meatloaf recipe could substitute for the sausage, ditto bean or other vegetarian loaf. Mmmmmmm. My mouth is watering!

  87. Kelly Leiva

    I make something similar but use raw swiss chard leaves with the tough steam removed, use pork and beef meatball mix with fresh breadcrumbs, garlic, fresh parsley and grated cheese, wrap the meatball mix (raw) in the swiss chard and cover with homemade marinara and bake.. Will be trying your recipe very soon:)

  88. MJ

    Dumb question: when you say “7-ounce (200-gram) hunk of bread (see above), crusts cut away, torn into small scraps (you’ll have about 3 loose cups of scraps)”, is that 200 g of bread as measured before you cut away the crusts, or after? Maybe the 3 c would be enough for me to guess, but I’m afraid that my loose cups might not be the same as yours. I must admit that this is a dish that I normally wouldn’t bother with, but if you say it’s good I’m inclined to believe you and will give it a shot.

    1. deb

      MJ — I measured the scraps from the hunk of bread that I’d weighed. I.e. sans crust.

      Patty — They were leftover from a catered party. But it looks like you can buy them from Amazon.

      GBannis — The flipping is to ensure they cook evenly, since they’re not fully submerged. They might cook in less time, you can always cut one open and check or use a thermometer. But they’re very lushly cooked and tender at the time listed in the recipe.

  89. Sarp

    This is NOT ITALIAN at all !!! This is completely a Turkish/Ottoman dish. I don’t know how it became Italian all of a sudden, but it is nice to see a good recipe being appreciated. Ottoman cuisine have a lot of wonderful, healthy dishes similar to this one actually. The same dish is also done with grape leaves, which I think is another mind-blowing taste. I suggest you should dig in further. I can help if you need – my aunt is a great cook of these dishes. By the way, from the pictures it looks like the tomato sauce needs more zest – more garlic maybe :)

  90. Lauren

    I made these for my Italian boyfriend last night – he LOVED them. Thanks, Deb, for helping me convince him I’m a good cook. Every time I make one of your recipes he’s blown away. He gave me your cookbook for Christmas, too!

    ps Can you come to Cincinnati soon??? You’d love our international market – Jungle Jim’s International Market. Seriously, it’s like the Disney World of food. And they have a cooking school! Please teach a class!!!

  91. Heather

    Deb, I just made these for my family tonight. I used to think that my Grandma’s (AKA “Best Cook in the World”) Hungarian stuffed cabbage recipe was seriously the best ever, and I am, as a result, a serious stuffed cabbage snob (I didn’t even bother with your other version) but now, it’s Italian counterpart has just claimed equal status as the Italian version of Best Stuffed Cabbage Ever Ever. Really, every bite was heaven. Some notes: I used turkey and made my own sausage mix. I did serve it over mashed potatoes, which elevated an already incredible dish. My only regret is that I did not listen to you and double the recipe.

  92. Louisa

    Hey Deb!
    First off I LOVE your site and cookbook. And am so excited for this recipe as I have cabbages in my fridge and was going to make your yummy galette (I’ve probably made it a dozen times, yum yum!).

    I have a recipe request, or more like craving. I’ve tried and loved your chocolate potato chip cookies and popcorn ones, and think you would be up for the challenge of helping (or lets be honest I just want to bake them and not figure out how to create them) what I think would make a brilliant cookie combination of chocolate, peanut butter, and pretzel. I’ve looked online and only can find ones that use peanut butter chips which I’m not too big of a fan of, I think they would be good with a peanut butter base but that’s all I can figure out, besides taking a spoonful of peanut butter putting a pretzel and chocolate chips on top…Please help! Thanks! :)

  93. Donielle

    My Sicilian nana made this with rice instead of bread crumbs–which is a nice gluten free alternative. Thanks for a great recipe!

  94. Carol

    These are simmering right now!! The first time I’ve actually attempted one of your recipes, Deb, as I’m a newbie to your site. And I adore it — thanks so much for all the food and FUN. Can’t wait to see how these turn out, they actually look like yours…so far!!

  95. Laura

    Man, this takes me back to the halupsi that my grandmother (German from Russia/Ukraine) used to make. My other grandmother also used to make “cabbage rolls” as well but she would mince hamburger, onion and cabbage and stuff it into delicious homemade rolls before she baked them. One of those still hot from the oven with some fresh butter dabbed inside was to.die.for.

  96. Tamar

    Hi Deb, this has absolutely nothing to do with cabbage but bear with me. I was walking past a store that had Girl Scout cookies today which sparked a conversation with my husband about which, if any, of the flavors are better from the box versus homemade. We concluded that thin mints are the ones we would have most trouble replicating at home because of the smooth and thin chocolate coating and the crispness of the wafers. So….are you up for taking one for the team and whipping up a homemade thin mint recipe? We would be eternally grateful for those months when Girl Scouts aren’t selling!

  97. The use of Savoy cabbage, la verza, is what really makes Italian stuffed cabbage, though I just stopped by to say congratulations on winning round 2 of Food52’s The Piglet — well done, and well deserved!

  98. I always stick the whole cabbage in the freezer to soften the leaves. They then peel off very easily. It’s less labour intensive than the boiling water method with the same end results.

  99. Claudia

    This made me happier than the caramel brownies! I grew up on sarma! But it was made similar to yours, with a deep heavy sugo…either way, a fine dish to tuck yourself into!
    Adore your cookbook and blog! Carry on!

  100. Lainey

    Should you drain the tomatoes before breaking them up for the sauce? I’m planning on making this recipe with some ground dark turkey. It looks so good!

  101. Yes, repeat frequently! I made these tonight, and they were delicious. There was only two kinds of cabbage at the store — Napa and something else that I bought, which I’m not sure was Savoy. It worked nonetheless. I used a loose ground sausage that I get from a farmer and used two cloves of garlic in the sauce, not one. Served it with some rosemary potatoes and steamed broccoli. Husband loved it and my fussy girls even ate some so this is going on the family favorites list for winter. Thanks!

  102. Mary Moss

    Martha Stewart has Thin Mints on her website, that i thought were excellent. Start there.
    Deb! I so cannot wait to meet you on Friday. By any freakish chance, will Jacob be in Chapel Hill on Saturday morn?

  103. Janet

    This reminds me of one of my family’s favorite dinners when we were growing up – Cabbage Lasagna. My Mom thought it up one night when Dad had a taste for stuffed cabbage. Mom didn’t like time-intensive recipes, and being 100% Italian, thought why not adapt one of our favorites dishes instead of stuffing each leaf individually? We never wanted cabbage rolls again.

  104. Carol

    OH MY GOSH THESE WERE AMAZING — the delicacy of the savoy makes it almost seem pasta-esque. They were so easy to make and stupid delicious. A new staple for sure. Thank you SO MUCH.

  105. Patrice

    Deb – no need to wilt your cabbage in boiling water. You will love me for this. Freeze the cabbage overnight. Take it out in the morning. No huge pot of boiling salted water; no unwieldly lifting of a hot head of cabbage…merely, peel and stuff.
    A tip from my local farm market. LOVE IT.

  106. Alison

    Deb, the video did automatically play for me. Not that I mind being interrupted by cute toddler noises, but those like Sally with less bandwidth might. :)

  107. We make these in Persian (Iran) cuisine as well – they are called dolme ‘yeh kalam (kalam being the cabbage) and use rice and grains instead of bread. Sadly, I can’t recall the last time I had one. Inspired by your post to remedy that. Yours look: delectable!!

  108. Becky

    Just wanted to comment somewhere on how much we’re enjoying the cookbook. Made the Smore cake for a party and it brought the house down!

  109. Golden Goose

    A “Westeros-length” winter! Just the thought makes me want to stockpile cabbages and dragonglass -thanks for the smile on a dreary February day when spring seems so far off!

  110. Stef

    yes! I had this craving for something that was “meatbally-but not meatballs” to make as my weekend project, and was hoping to find something interesting to make without breaking the bank. perfect! also I couldn’t resist doing some googling myself and now am on a mad quest to find a good recipe for yiaprakia…anyone? I am also adapting the idea to use Swiss chard in place of cabbage and taking my own vegetarian musing for a spin…also very glad that my favorite food blogger had her first child a few years before me, as I am now pregnant and excited to already have some toddler-approved recipes up my sleeve for the future :)

  111. I made these last night and they were wonderful! Very interested in trying Patrice’s ^ tip about pre-freezing and thawing the cabbage – though, blanching the leaves worked perfectly for having a quick transition to boiling some potatoes :)

    Anyway, these are even better the next day (especially with a little splash of cream added in!) I can’t wait to mess around with different flavor combinations. As always – thanks for the work you do!

  112. I live in Italy…and my husband is Italian…and we made this tonight with a blend of ground veal and verzini (Italian sausages, slightly spicy, often eaten with verza, which is Italian savoy cabbage)…and I am hear to tell you it got RAVE reviews. Thank you so much!!!

  113. Patrice

    My mom NEVER peeled the cabbage when fresh – the head went into boiling water and the leaves were peeled off while in the pot after they had wilted. Kind of unwieldy. But far easier that peeling a whole raw cabbage leaf off the head.

    I’ve tried the freezing thing twice – it really needs at least 8 hours or overnight to freeze thoroughly. The frozen/thawed leaves have the same “hand” as water-wilted. Much less work!

  114. Marissa

    I made these last night. They were delicious! My local grocery store did not have savoy cabbage so I settled for green and just put the whole head in the boiling water for a few minutes to loosen the leaves before removing. Worked great. Thanks for the lovely inspiration!

  115. Dori

    I love hot spicy sarma made with pork rice and tomato sauce. The way the cabbage tastes after it has been sitting in the spicy sauce is just awesome!
    If you like it spicy, add crushed pepper flakes to the sauce for an extra kick.

  116. Ariel

    For all wondering, I went to the asian store today and they had those bamboo toothpicks! So I had to buy some :-) Mine were $1.50 for a decent sized bag.

  117. Ann

    A hint that I’d like to share… cabbage [whole] can be microwaved til pliable, saves time and no boiling of water. If it needs more time just pull off leaves as done. No drainage is needed. I nuke it in one minute intervals and check.

    And there is a Japanese version that more like a layer cake/lassana called Kyabetsu no Kasaneni that I like to make.


  118. Allison

    I made these tonight. Like you, these will be added to our list of frequently made suppers. It was just SO GOOD!! I made it exactly as you said. I went to Whole Foods and bought the same cabbage and bought 3 mild Italian sausages from there. We had ours with white rice because we just had your baked potato soup last night. I follow so many food blogs but yours is the only one with reliably great recipes. I appreciate that you only post the great ones, instead of posting everything you ever cooked in your kitchen. Your cookbook is amazing. I really hope you’re working on the 2nd book? Thanks for the wonderful recipes!

  119. Wendy

    Love this “flavor profile” for stuffed cabbage. For my Jewishy version, I’ve always used kasha in the filling (with onions et al.) and a sweetish tomato sauce with a couple cups of crushed ginger snaps. Also love your alternative to the traditional roll.

  120. GBannis

    Checking on the time in the pot. Do such small meatballs really need an hour of cooking time? And, because I’d always prefer doing less work, do I really need to flip them after 25 minutes? (Please say no.)

  121. ellen van hamburg

    i made this last night, delicious, i served it with spaghetti noodles, it felt like a special
    meatball on my pile of pasta. i thought it would be labor intensive and it really wasn’t, i don’t know how something that looks complicated can be so easy. this will be in my rotation from now on. it’s not often i try a recipe and consider it a keeper. thanks
    btw, i’ve never even had any version of cabbage rolls before. now it’s a favorite.

  122. HarleyDude

    Nice recipe choice, girlfriend. Being of the Polish and Filipino (and pronounced ‘pill-a-peeno’ in my family) Persuasion, we enjoy many varations of the gloabki. I even tried to deep fry like lumpia which resulted in quite a greasy mess, but I do have more ideas in that area. I like this result! I worked my own recipe of fresh turkey sausage in the mix and served atop a steaming bed of spaghetti squash for a lean and mean dish. (I’m trying to buff up for the summer… and yes, it’ll take a while.)

    Any ideas for other non-carb sides or fillings?

  123. Yes, we are having a Winterfell-like winter here in Vermont (love it!) and this dish will really hit the spot when the wolves start to howl outside. I’ve only ever made Hungarian-style stuffed cabbage and it’s a big production. These are exciting to contemplate– thanks for the recipe!

  124. I love this recipe! I made it vegetarian friendly by using chickpea balls (kind of like meat balls/ or the pork sausage used) and it turned out delicious. Thanks for the awesome food-spiration!

  125. Beth

    I lurk a lot, but rarely comment. However, these were delicious. Huge hit with my husband and friends, and even my picky, sausage-hating 8 year old liked them. The stuffed cabbage recipes I’ve tried have always ended up being really bland, but these are terrific.

  126. Kay

    Hi Deb! I made this on Tuesday night, and it was so (so, so, so) good! Not hard at all. I used “regular” cabbage and (being the usually non-cabbage buyer that I am) didn’t realize that I wasn’t working with Savoy cabbage until I read your post again later that night. It still turned out great! But I would maybe (for novices like me) provide a link to the isntructions you provided a while back re: soaking and peeling a regular cabbage. Does this make sense? Anyhow! I made a bit of a mess of my cabbage, and it still turned out great! I just stuck a few toothpicks in each bundle for reinforcements!

  127. Allie

    My grandma makes excellent golabki, which I gobbled up before I became pescatarian. I’ve adapted her recipe using onions, barley, mushrooms, and textured soy protein as the filler, and it’s quite nice, if I do say so myself. Grandma always adds a squirt of fresh lemon juice to her cabbage rolls, which gives an otherwise heavy dish a bit of a zing. I’ve found few golabki recipes that call for lemon, but it really makes a difference!

  128. Jena

    I am realizing that the phrase savoy cabbage actually covers many more varieties than I thought. The variety we get is MUCH crinklier/lacier/darker (yes, also the inner leaves), but it turned out really well.

    I skipped on pre-made sausages and just ground some pork and then seasoned it with salsiccia seasonings and our normal sausage making salt. I think buying straight up ground pork would work assuming you were not afraid of the seasoning amounts (eh hem, salt) called for in most sausage recipes.

  129. henryalbertluci

    Ukrainian holubsti(cabbage rolls), is typically made with rice and very, very little pork fat, no meat. My family still loves them this way and we use sauteed onion mixed with boiled rice and lots of white pepper. We also use boiled regular cabbage and usually cut the leaf in half & stuff the rice mixture. You pack them tightly in your roast pan and use a fair amount of tomato juice for the sauce. You use the torn leaves or the marked outside leaves to line the roast pan and to cover the cabbage rolls so they won’t burn. Our family eats them with perogies. These 2 dishes are part of the 7 meatless dishes that Ukrainian people eat on their Christmas Eve. Both items are topped with sour cream…delish!

  130. Natalie I.

    Hi Deb!
    I am Croatian, and my mother makes Sarma on a constant basis. What she usually puts in there is a mixture of rice, ground pork, and spices. She has substituted the ground pork for chicken a couple of times, and it has turned out delicious! Also, the sauerkraut that they mention in the Croatian/Serb version means that we use sour/pickled cabbage as the cabbage you wrap the meat mixture in. I hope that’s what you meant by the sauerkraut, because it gives the cabbage rolls such a delicious tang with a juicy meat inside. My mother also cooks it in a vegetable beef stock. Hope you end up trying it the Croatian way!

  131. Camille

    I was so excited to see this recipe… I actually had all the ingredients! However I ran out of prep time and so deconstructed it into a sausage and Savoy cabbage pasta sauce. It totally worked! Definitely not something I would have made without inspiration. As DH said it was “strange but tasty”

  132. i’m a vegan and your recipe stuffed cabbage i’ve tried. Believe me its something that i will keep making for my children. Absolutely loved it. Must have it with boiled rice.

  133. Ljm

    These were great! I made a vegetarian version using morningstar links and adding some sausage spices from a recipe I had for homemade sausage, back in the day when i ate meat. I also added some rice and egg for the filling, but otherwise followed the recipe to a T. We had them with mashed potatoes and it was perfect for a cold, rainy day. Thanks, Deb…i LOVE your photos! I’m always interested in new ideas for presentation, and you never disappoint.

  134. I want to type an enthusiastic expletive… these are SO delicious!!

    I grew up eating insipid cabbage rolls but these are outstanding!

    We made them on Thursday and have been nibbling on the leftovers since then. They age VERY well.

    We are so enthusiastic that I am making more tonight!

    Thank you, Smitten Kitchen, for sharing this wonderful, wonderful, wonderful (a.k.a., TASTY!!!!) recipe.

    You NEVER disappoint.

  135. Sarah M.

    I would like to make this the night before to serve at lunch the next day – any tips on re-heating or thoughts on how this would hold up? Thanks!

  136. Potter

    The Eastern European- Jewish version of this that I make is sweet and sour. The tomato sauce has lemons ( whole cut) in it, brown sugar, raisins and onion sliced thin The stuffing has ground beef ( you could use lamb) and rice, no milk, no herbs but slightly seasoned with salt and pepper. The cooking is slow and long…

  137. Experimented using Chinese Leaf Cabbage. Didn’t like it so much, as the texture was quite chewy. I think I’ll definitely go with Savoy Cabbage next time.

  138. kpgn

    thanks for the delicious… soup! I changed the filling into mini meatballs, added two quarts of homemade stock and a can of cannellini beans. So delicious, and I don’t have to worry about no leftovers! Thanks for the great idea!

  139. I made these with a few substitutions to fit into my diet — 100% whole what bread, plain “light” soy milk (Silk), and sweet turkey sausages instead of pork. I was worried that it would turn out a little weird because of all the changes, but it was DELICIOUS. I’m so happy that I can now incorporate these into my rotation of “everyday foods”! :)

  140. Brandi

    Thanks for another great recipe! We made a vegetarian version tonight by substituting a combination of Field Roast and Lightlife veggie “sausages.” By chopping up the fake sausages before combining them with the bread paste we were able to get them to form in convincing looking and feeling meatballs. Nom!

  141. Jenny K

    Made these over the weekend and they are DELICIOUS. I want to emphasize how easy it was, much easier than I expected for such a beautiful dish. My 9 year old daughter was completely on board with this, my husband was a little unsure, my 5 year old daughter was doubtful and worried. Turns out there was no need for concern, all of us loved this. I served the cabbage rolls with this Crescent Potato Puffs.

  142. Rossi

    In Bulgaria we know these as sarmi-you can make them with rice and meat, or rice and raisins, whatever you like!!! We make sarmi with grape leaves, too. Whatever the stuffing is, the result is always mhmmm…

  143. Deb, I have a challenge for you (I know you love them, right?)….
    I made these for dinner tonight and I loved them. But, my husband thought the tomatoes overpowered the subtle flavors of the stuffed cabbage. He was wondering if there’s a way to either tone down the tomato sauce or, even better, if you can come up with a version that doesn’t involve tomatoes. Are you up to the challenge?

  144. Leni

    I am excited about trying out this recipe tonight! A great variation of stuffed cabbage is also to use ground meat (season it with garlic,onion and a bit mustard) and let the rolls cook in a vegetable broth and add some cream at the end. Tried that a while ago without a recipe and it worked out great.

  145. Allison

    I grew up eating this delectable dish. Do yourself a favor and serve them with mashed potatoes. The ultimate comfort meal! When I go home I still beg my mom to make it for me.

  146. Kris

    Yum, I used to make something similar, with rice instead of bread, and regular heavy cabbage. Just need the sauce to be a bit more watery for the rice to cook, and it was the perfect winter meal.

  147. Ariel

    These were so freaking good. I ended up with more than fit in my pan (used a whole pound of sausage and a little more bread than called for), so I cooked the extras with oil, garlic, and half a can of diced tomatoes in a medium saucepan. This sauce came out a little thinner than the one with the whole tomatoes, but was still tasty.

    Boyfriend and I went through these way too quickly. :-)

  148. Sara

    I did it! When I was meticulously pulling leaves from cabbage, I wasn’t sure if I could pull it off. But, I did! I made mine wayyy too big, too, but decided I’d layer them anyway and rotate them. It worked great. We’re vegetarian, so my stuffing was instead the stuffing from Everyday Food’s Acorn Squash stuffed with mushrooms and rice. It worked perfectly with a little extra squash in there to bind it together.

    Thanks so much for the inspiration; it was delicious! And the sauce was perfect.

  149. Joseph

    I made these tonight and while they tasted great the sauce came out very water. Maybe a difference in the canned tomatoes. I still love the smitten kitchen though.

  150. Michele Heaton

    These are just divine…made them last night. I’ve never used the Savoy cabbage, but it was great to work with and didn’t tear at all…the little beasties even stayed together when they were flipped, which amazed me. Yummy, really, really good stuff.

  151. Christina

    We finally made theses this weekend and used 3 different kinds of sausages–sweet/hot italian and turkey. Was so delicious and the hot sausage gave the sauce a nice kick. ONLY complaint is that the sauce was a little greasey. Loved it tho. And another excuse to have mashed potatoes was a major plus.

  152. These look amazing. I’m a huge fan of stuffed cabbage but usually make it Arabic style (mahshi malfouf). I’ll have to try it this way. Oh, and your idea to use toothpicks? Brilliant. You just made my life so. much. easier.

  153. Heather

    We are American Roma aka gypsies.We call this Sadme plural or Sadma singular and we make this stuffed with pork,chopped onion,celery,bell pepper,jalapeño peppers cooked with salt black pepper,crushed pepper and cayenne pepper()we like food spicy)once the pork and vegetables are cooked we add tomato paste and water and oil to make a sauce then add rice once the rice is cooked we stuff the pre-boiled cabbage and roll them,place them in a pot with some left over sauce we also stuff this mixture into bell peppers and bake in the oven or just as is.We also put the mixture in egg roll wrappers and fry them.

  154. Anne Smithen

    Very interesting! The other day I have just found a course in Dirty Apron on this list of most popular cooking classes in Vancouver and I took a course of Italian cuisine. Surprisingly, one lesson was dedicated exactly to Italian stuffed cabbage recipe. However, it was a bit different from this one. The sauce contained pepper and vinegar and the meat was half pork-half beef. I tried both (the recipe from the course and yours) and I must say it seems like my family appreciated yours much more. Big thanks for sharing!

  155. Made these this week, and since we don’t eat pork and turkey sausage is so light and well, turkey-ish, I used half turkey sausage and half ground beef. They were delicious! I did not, however, convince my toddlers that the “packages” were fun. They insisted that I take the cabbage out of their bowls, but they loved the meatballs otherwise. I thought you might get a kick out of this: last night, grumbling under my breath, I unwrapped a few more so I could make meatball subs for my picky eaters. They loved those, too, and my husband even said the subs were “phenomenal.” So, despite the fact that your dish ended up all kinds of re-purposed in the end, it was still a hit.

  156. Jess

    I made these and Alex’s mom’s stuffed cabbage last night (why waste cabbage?) and both turned out wonderfully. These were so tender and delicious, I served them over orzo, and they were gobbled up by kids and adults! I can’t wait to perfect the technique, these are definitely going in the rotation! Thank you, as always, for delicious recipes!

  157. I followed the link to your mother-in-laws recipe and I love the way you describe the Polish restaurants :) I was at Veselka about 2 years ago and loved it! Very good option to have when your grandma isn’t around to cook for you anymore ;) I’m 100% Polish and still haven’t had the guts to try golabki lol but this recipe looks delicious! I recently purchased your book and even wrote a little blog post about it, can’t wait to dig in and start cooking away :) xoxo Kasia

  158. Kayaker

    I just discovered your website. I knew I would like your content when I read, “Excessively fussy foods and/or pretentious ingredients. I don’t do truffle oil, Himalayan pink salt at $10 per quarter-ounce or single-origin chocolate that can only be found through Posh Nosh-approved purveyors. I think food should be accessible, and are certain that you don’t need any of these things to cook fantastically.” Thank you! I wish more chefs would do this as well. I’m tired of muddy flavors with the “kitchen sink” approach.
    I made this recipe last night and it is delicious, both the cabbage rolls and sauce (I’ll serve it tonight to guests). I’m serving it with polenta and salad. I, too, microwaved the green cabbage to make it easy to roll. Interestingly, using tomato sauce took away the heavy cabbage smell that I have when making the typical Eastern European stuffed cabbage. That’s a plus in you are indoors on a cold winter day with the windows closed.
    Thank you.

  159. Aga

    Is it really Italian? Here, in Poland, we treat it as our national dish I think, and we call it “gołąbki” which literally means “pigeons”. What does it have in common with birds, I don’t really know ;)

    And as I just checked, this is really dish that come from Eastern Europe ;)

  160. Ozge

    Hi Deb,

    I think i will try this. I am a big fan of stuffed cabbages. In my country (Turkey) it’s been cooking in a few versions. I think even the Greek word lahanodolmathes comes from Turkish, lahana means cabbage, dolma means stuffing in Turkish so lahana+dolma+thes :)

    My favorite version is the sour version, cabbage is stuffed with rice&meat also you make a sour souce (tomato paste, garlic, lemon juice and dried mint) on top.


  161. Maria#2

    To the person who is allergic to tomatoes. My mother is allergic to tomatoes and I have made the following sauce for her when serving pasta. You really can’t tell there are no tomatoes in it, especially if you have been off tomatoes for a bit. I found the basic recipe on the web and adjusted it to taste.

    2 c carrots – chopped and steamed
    1 c pickled beats (I can these myself, and they contain red beets (steamed), vinegar and small amount of sugar)
    1 onion – chopped (the sharp flavored ones)
    2 garlic cloves – finely chopped
    ¼ c white wine
    1 tsp Italian seasoning
    1 bay leaf
    ¼ tsp salt
    ¼ tsp pepper

    Boil chopped carrots in a little bit of water (barely enough to cover them). Place carrots, water from carrots, beats and liquid from beats into blender. Blend until smooth. Sautee onions and garlic till a little bit caramelized. Add wine to clarify bottom of pan. Add blended ingredients and spices to pan. Add water to consistency. I usually need to add about ¼ cup of water. Simmer for at least 30 minutes to combine all flavors.

  162. Kate

    Soooo good. We’ve gone veggie in our house, so I used cooked lentils and breadcrumbs without milk, plus all your suggested seasonings. It worked out surprisingly well!

  163. Adina

    Hi there. I’m from Romania the country were sarma is a common dish.
    First of all the origin of the word sarma is Turkish, but we as a people embraced this dish as ours. Second try with pickled cabbage( i dont know if it’s something that you do there in Canada) and cook them in the oven. All the best

  164. I made the cabbage stuffed parcels for the family last night – WHAT A SUCCESS! I expected the two youngest to turn their noses chance. Slurping noises and 3 minutes later, plates were clean. This is going to be a regular weekly addition to our family menu. Thanks.

  165. Kyla

    I loved the look of this when it was first posted, but February in Australia just isn’t stuffed cabbage weather! But it’s just gotten cold enough to do this week, and yum! The meatballs were delightfully light, and the sauce very tasty. I halved it as I was just making it for my husband and I and got 6 parcels out of the mixture, but even though we are greedy pigs, 2 parcels each was enough with some mash and green beans on the side.

  166. Maryanna

    Great recipe! I made it with vegetarian italian sausage and it came out really well! I finely chopped the sausage and used a bit more milk than the recipe calls for to make it hold together but it worked! thnaks

  167. Sofie M.

    I made this on a few nights ago, and the flavors were great. I panicked for a moment because I didn’t have any toothpicks on hand, but (shockingly) the cabbage stayed wrapped together just fine without. I used 1lb of sausage instead of 14oz (who on earth sells sausage in 14oz increments??), and the ratios turned out just fine. One thing I would caution, however, is that the tomato “sauce” is watery, not as thick and flavorful as I would have anticipated, so if I did this again I’d probably mix one 15oz can of diced tomatoes with one 15oz helping of tomato sauce to even it out and add some good consistency.

    Ironically, I think the fact that my savoy cabbage was just a touch less than fresh was really helpful for the cabbage stuffing process and helped it all stay put without toothpicks. Thanks for the recipe, it was bunches of fun to make.

  168. We have the meal like this in Poland – but we mix a little boiled rice with fresh meat and get it to the cabbage. This is name “gołąbki”. Delicious :)

  169. Jean

    I wanted to give Lauren (Feb 18) a vegetarian idea that came to mind as I was
    reading the comments. If she made Pinto Beans,with Black Beans, with brown or wild rice mushroom pilaf medley, some cooked brown lentils… combined in a thickened manner of some kind…
    so they would hold together,
    with favorite spice blend of her choice…you could make a veggie ball then wrap in the
    cabbage leaf. Just some quick thoughts to improvise for meat.
    Trader Joe has a edamame tofu nugget that tastes awesome. You can wrap that up
    too! They also carry a firm tofu called “Savory” flavored that tastes great. Frozen Spinach thawed holds together pretty firmly to add in the mix idea.

  170. I have made this regularly/frequently/avidly since you posted it but I always get tripped up on the bread (of all thing!).
    Seven ounces always translates to six or seven cups of bread for me, usually using a rustic, sweet italian loaf or two. What was your bread?! Did it have iron ore in it? But seriously, which is more important: the three cups or the seven ounces. I am leaning towards the volume rather than the weight but I would LOVE your input.
    P.S. – My DH and little boy (and me too) love this so much!!!! Thank you.

  171. Waffled

    Oh my! I never knew a really good stuffed cabbage until I made this! Because I live in a pretty remote area, I had to do a little improvising (Savoy cabbage, are you kidding me?). Regular cabbage is a bit tougher so I simmered longer. I like a little spicy so I tossed a bit of tapatio in the sauce. Delish! Thank you.

  172. Waffled

    Oh, also, regular cabbage leaves are tough to peel off…I blanched the whole head for a couple minutes and they came off very easily after.

  173. Nicolina Maria

    Just as a heads up – Savoy Cabbage works best for these.
    — This is coming from a Calabrese that makes em all the time (;

  174. Heidi

    I just made this for my friend who will usually say about anything Italian I make that it’s very nice but she/her mother/her aunt would have have done _____ different. This left her silent and stuffing her face. I made as directed but had no rosemary and a regular cabbage rather than Napa. Love!!

  175. I was just browsing through the net for interesting cabbage recipes. My idea is to compile all of them and present it to my visitors. I must say, your stuffed cabbage recipe looks really different from those I have on my site and of course really yummy. Will surely add link on my site, once the list is ready. Do visit my site. Thanks a ton!

  176. Linda

    searching for an Italian version, I found this incredible recipe. The most outstanding part is 264 comments! My question, how much bread crumbs could I use instead of bread?

  177. Marie

    I made this for dinner today – so good, the whole family loved it! I froze the cabbage as others have suggested in the comments and was so happy at how easy it was. I served it with rice, will definitely make this again.

  178. Mike

    My .02: for the filling, saute a mirepoix, supplemented w/ what other veggies as you will, then substitute steel cut oats, quinoa or a similar grain for the bread or rice that’s usually part of the filling. Then, get out your bundt pan and think how its flutes fit the vein of a cabbage leaf. Soften them as you will, overlap them around the inside of the pan, then fill them no more than 3/4 high before folding the cabbage’s ends back over them. Top the folded cabbage w/ roundly sliced potatoes, and finally your sauce – usually tomato based, but a chicken stock goes well with a veal-pork-poultry filling. Bake at 350* for at least an hour until done – potatoes should brown nicely – invert, and fill “cake’s” hollow with either mashed potatoes or a pilaf made of the leftover filling separately cooked. Makes a great presentation!

  179. Ace

    Just made these last night and wanted to say how great they are. My husband was very dubious because he hates cooked cabbage, but after pretending for a minute that he thought they were gross, he admitted, “This is really f*ing good.” And cleaned his plate in a minute flat. Thanks, Deb!

  180. Joan

    I made these today and decided to use leftover seasoned cheese sticks for the bread. I also added a chopped onion to the tomato mixture. They are delicious!

  181. Chris

    I made these for my girlfriend while she was at work and she loved it. Thank you Deb. This is also my favorite recipe of all time.

  182. Melinda

    I love these and we eat them every winter. It’s over a 100* F here right now and they are simmering away on the stove. We just got back from an Alaskan cruise and I kept dreaming about these. I could not wait till cooler weather to make!

  183. Erin

    Just a quick and (to me, at least) tremendously useful tip for all stuffed cabbage recipes: rather than fussing with blanching your cabbage, just freeze the whole thing in advance and then thaw it when you’re ready to cook. The leaves will be softened and peel away easily, so you can proceed with your dish without the trouble of the first step.

  184. Karin

    I make simular stuffed cabbage rolls with green cabbage and I put te rolls in a tomatoe-crème fraîche sauce and a lot if cheese in the oven. Als very nice preferably with homemade pasta (in the weekend that is).

  185. M Bartels

    This is a must try for me! However, there is one thing I need to share: All this steaming and draining business can be skipped altogether. Probably the BEST hint that I have for Cabbage Rolls is this: When you decide you want to make Cabbage Rolls, buy the Cabbage, take it home and put it in a container or a bag and toss it into the freezer. Let it freeze for at least 24 hours. Then take it out of the freezer and put it in a colander over the sink. I try to time it to take it out of the freezer in the morning. Then after it is thawed, the cabbage is entirely soft! I core the cabbage and then trim the really big cabbage leaves of the vein. No Steaming or draining required. This way you can get a few cabbages and freeze them ahead.

  186. Judy

    I grew up on sarma. The really authentic recipe my mother made used what they called “sour heads” that is basically homemade sauerkraut. My mother would make her rolls, then layer them in a big pot with alternate layers of sauerkraut. She would add water and let the rolls dimmer for several hours. Then she would make “zafric” ( burnt brown roux with garlic) and add that to the pot for about the last hour or so. So delish, and even better the next day.

  187. Jess

    I used chicken sausage and it was awesome. Way more flavorful and much easier than I expected. Also, thanks to the commenters for the suggestion about freezing the cabbage in lieu of boiling – worked beautifully.

  188. kantz1503

    I made this for dinner last night as the Feb 2017 Nor’easter was pounding the NY metro area. So good! I used the pressure cooker. 10 minutes on high pressure, then take the toothpicks out, turn the rolls over, and cook for another 10 minutes. The sauce was a bit watery at the end but I just let it simmer for a few minutes while I made pasta to go on the side and it thickened to a nice marinara consistency. It was SO DELICIOUS.

  189. Neel

    Thanks, Deb! This was pretty fantastic, and I’ll definitely be adding this to the rotation. I heard you speak in SF, and you were a delight. You’ve made me enjoy cooking. Your talk about how you learned how to cook and constantly improve your own cooking has inspired me to take a more methodical approach to my own cooking. Thank you!

  190. Angela Danyluk

    I was just going to say that when I make cabbage rolls I slice into the top to separate the leaves and boil the whole head. I find the leaves rolls off easier and gives you more usable leaves to make extras. I appreciate the idea for this new cabbage roll recipe and I’m planning on using the Italian marinara that incorporates anchovies because it just give another layer of flavor. I’m probably going to miss the sour cream from the Ukrainian recipe my husband’s family taught me years ago but I won’t miss the rice.

  191. Robin Lewis

    I have those little bamboo toothpicks. (From Whole Foods.) They won’t burn? I make Polish stuffed cabbage (twice a year, a family tradition for holidays)…just wrapping them up (w/o toothpicks) works fine…This recipe sounds deliciuos and definitely worth a try. I’ve never used Savoy cabbage for my ‘little pigeons’…

  192. Sherry Ellis

    For those asking about a vegetarian option: my mother made Hungarian style cabbage rolls and always stuffed a few with lentils and rice for my vegetarian sister. Lentils taste quite “meaty”.

  193. Lynda Elkind

    Hi Deb, thanks for this delicious post. I make a few changes due to allergies and pantry that folks might enjoy. First to the meatball recipe, I didn’t have nice bread as in your photo, but I did have left over party rye (pumpernickle) that I tore apart and made the pennade with, and added a medium chopped onion. Second, I split the cabbage balls between the tomato sauce and put 1/3 of them in a can of 100% pumpkin, thinned chicken broth, add added nutmeg and salt and pepper for my daughter who has a tomato allergy. We all loved dinner.

  194. Would love a tutorial about bundling those cabbage packages….for the life of me, I have never been able to master “cabbage 101″…..from “gently” getting the leaves off the head, and then wrapping them up….out of the 14 I made, I think one looked good, the rest had three to four toothpicks holding them together…ahhhhhh…someday, I guess!

  195. Beth

    Serb here. Grew up on sarma. (Autocorrect wants that to be Saran.) We cut up the rest of the cabbage once we’ve peeled off the leaves we’re using (our mixture is beef and rice and an egg and Accent) and indeed mix in a small can of sauerkraut and some diced onion to make a bed on which to simmer the cabbage rolls alternated with smoked sausage. No ham hocks in my world! We top it with a can of tomato soup and a bit of water. The “bottom of the pot,” as we call it, is the best part!

  196. Liza Jane

    I hate to be one of Those People, but I’m on a keto diet for a clinical study and this sounds so good, but the bread is a no-no. I’m wondering what will happen if I omit the panade? I’d guess they’d be more compact (and less volume overall) but still tasty. Thanks!

  197. Lynn in Tucson

    It was the in-laws’ turn to have us for Christmas this year but my mother lured us home anyway to help with Serbian Christmas in early January. We made sarma for thirty (the smoked spare ribs, the ham hocks, the sauerkraut) and then I cobbled together a vegetarian version for my kid. Lentils, quinoa, walnuts…it was quite good.

  198. Sarah

    I’ve been dying to make these. I’m making them now and wanted to put this tip out there: microwaving the cabbage head for a minute or two makes the whole thing peel away from itself much more easily for the initial removing of the whole leaves.

    Also, although I am, ahem, quite familiar with the wine bottle, I was unsure what it meant to wrap the cabbage rolls like a wine bottle. My rolls are pretty loose up top and I’m not sure how to make them tighter, or if it even matters. I do believe that when I flip them they may be a little sloppy.

  199. Nikki

    Do you think it’ll be okay if I assemble the cabbage packets ahead of time and refrigerate them for 24/48 hours before simmering in the tomato sauce?

  200. sadenzer

    I’m looking to scale this up and will be limited on stove space. Do you have any recommendations re: timing if I were to cook these in the oven rather than the stovetop?

  201. Bethany

    I’m here to tell you that you need to make this recipe. The meatballs are delectable, the tomato sauce is bright and delicious and the cabbage leaves turn tender and extremely flavorful. This dish has made me realize that the life-long prejudice I’d been nursing against cooked cabbage was, indeed, misplaced. This dish is a bit labor-intensive but WOW is it worth it.

    1. Science_Chick

      I found this recipe in 2014 and I’ve made it, on average, twice every fall/winter. It’s DA BOMB. I, too, thought cabbage was a smelly, pale-grey poor-man’s-veg until this recipe. The leftovers are even better. It needs nothing else.

  202. John M

    This recipe is PERFECT for Fall!

    I made it several times with polenta with fresh sage and green beans


    Ps: I bought your recipe book years ago, great stuff!

    1. deb

      I suspect you could get the leaves soft enough for it to work, or I’m sure someone has, but I’ve never had luck with it. The other cabbage leaves tear too easily for me. Savoy has more of a stretchy texture.

      1. Aja

        I’m trying it with green cabbage right now, as it was all that was available at the store. It worked just fine, I didn’t have issues with the tearing or anything. I find that if I roll them back off themselves, and cut the stalk before doing anything, they pop off fine. They’re simmering now, and holding their shape!

        1. Niamh Morris

          I used green cabbage too. The first leaves came off easily and then I used Martha Stewart’s Mother’s method and blanched the whole head of cabbage for 3 minutes and then peeled away as many leaves as I could, I had to repeat this twice to separate all the leaves but since they’re already blanched this way it took a bit less time.

  203. Alice

    This was delicious! We had to make some switches based on what we had on hand: red cabbage from our csa box, panko flakes instead of bread crumbs and no fresh herbs. Would definitely make again.

  204. Niamh Morris

    I’ve been meaning to make this forever and finally got to make it this week. It was a massive hit with my family and there was enough for two meals – I had bought 600g of minced meat (half beef half pork) before checking the recipe so I made lots. I had saved Rachel Roddy’s recipe from the newspaper so when yours popped up it sealed the deal. Really yummy, comforting food.

  205. Journey

    One comment I read here but has since been buried said to freeze the cabbage prior to using. When it thaws, you can peel the leaves off and use them without the blanching step. Now that i have made this recipe both ways I can say the freezing trick is the way to go! I wish deb would try it and amend the recipe bc it saves a lot of time. The leaves get more tender. I found the darker outer leaves almost too tough even when blanched but they get much more tender with the freeze method. This is a great recipe!

  206. Here’s a trick I learned years ago that is sooo wonderful! Instead of boiling stinky cabbage….core it and throw it in the freezer. You need to do this a couple days before you want to make the rolls. Then just thaw and it’s ready to wrap! No smell and wilted and easy to wrap!

  207. Kristen Tooley

    So good!! I added red pepper flakes to the sauce and topped with basil. Good suggestion to serve with mashed potatoes! LOVED this dish. Next time I will try the freezing method with the head of cabbage. Thanks for bringing back an old childhood favorite.

  208. Jeannine

    This is one of my favorite winter recipes on your website. I have made multiple times, and I enjoy every single bit of it each time! Ugh, unfortunately this time none of the stores I looked in had savoy cabbage, and so I decided to try it with green cabbage. I’m realizing that you have prep the green cabbage differently than the Savoy. Savoy cabbage is very easy to peel the leaves from the head without tearing them. Green cabbage is virtually impossible and kind of maddening! I think a couple of people posted here that you can put the whole head of cabbage in the freezer for a few hours, and then take it out to thaw. Or you can blanch the whole head in a half-pot of boiling water. Either way will loosen the leaves from the head and make it easier to peel them off without tearing them into pieces… I’m trying the boiling method and crossing fingers it works!

    1. Katie

      The OG cabbage roll recipe on this blog mentions to cut the core out of the cabbage and pour boiling water over it. That recipe also calls for Savoy cabbage but I wonder if the trick would work for green?

  209. Katie

    For how long I’ve been following this blog (I think since 2007? 08?) I can’t believe I missed the reference to La Quercia, my favourite restaurant in Vancouver. If you ever make it back, also stop by Oca Pastificio, headed up by friends of mine who used to be chefs and sommelier at La Quercia :)

    In any case, I’m excited to find this recipe… with the weather acting like it is, I’ll be plating this up before long!

  210. Carol Love

    My Eastern European baba made it with a combo of ground lamb, ground veal and ground pork with onion and rice & spices. The sauce included tomato, sauerkraut and ham hooks or shanks for flavor. We call it Sarma. So yummy. I love your recipes! Thank you!!

  211. Alica lawrence

    I live in South Florida, my Mother made these frequently growing up in 60’s-70’s and called them Hot Tamales. She put raw rice in the meatballs, along w/ bread. I loved them and still do.

  212. Morgan

    My Romanian mil taught me to make cabbage rolls. She makes preparing the cabbage leaves so easy. The trick is to throw the whole head of cabbage in the boiling salt water. Remove as much of the core as you can before adding it to the water, and then gently peel each outer leave off as it boils. (She uses a fork, I use chop sticks.) Less broken leaves & less work.

  213. Shreelekha Patel

    I would love to make this dish. Like anything that involves Savoy cabbage ( family favourite is your recipe of roasted cabbage with walnuts, garlic and parmigiana dressing).
    As a vegetarian, what do you recommend as a substitute for meat. Thanks

  214. Carolyn

    Deb, Save yourself! Here’s my stuffed cabbage hack. Put the head of cabbage in the freezer. Take it out to defrost a couple of days in the refrigerator. Peel off “blanched” cabbage leaves – and skip all that messing around with cutting into cabbage head, boiling, waiting, removing with tongs, drying. I’ve been doing that forever.

  215. Kate

    Just finished these cabbage rolls.
    No savoy cabbage, so used Napa. I’m certain a very different texture. No matter! Delicious!! How simple. I’ve made the LONG recipe. This is doable.
    Serve with mashed potatoes. Yummy.

  216. Shari Greenman

    Stuffed cabbage is one of the few recipes my grandmother taught me to make- Jewish/Hungarian style. This recipe intrigued me and I made it tonight-pretty much verbatim. Great recipe and I love rolling the balls. Delicious and it probably can make more than 12 rolls. Next time I’ll try for 14. Thank you Deb…your recipes are always inspiring!

  217. Sarah

    Question! Serious stuffed cabbage and meatball enthusiast. I have a bag of meatballs stashed in my freezer for emergency dinners. Do you think I could use them from frozen in this dish? I’m only concerned because they’re floured on the outside…