I can't say cabbage rolls have always been my favourite. My family has cabbage rolls every year at Thanksgiving and Christmas, along with pierogies, meat sticks (breaded pork skewers), and turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, etc. With all that deliciousness, the cabbage rolls are not the first thing on my plate. And they always seemed complicated to make outside the holidays.
But these "lazy" cabbage rolls are pretty easy. They are actually like mini-meat loafs. The recipe makes a whole bunch so I froze half and cooked them later and it made a fantastic quick weeknight dinner.
Here's what you need for the cabbage rolls:
1/3 head cabbage
2 cups water
1 tablespoon butter
1 yellow onion
4 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups cold cooked rice
1/2 cup finely diced kielbasa or smoked sausage
1 pound ground beef
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
sour cream and minced dill for garnish
If you don't have cold, cooked rice, make some rice and set it aside to cool while you prepare the cabbage.
Place the whole 1/3 cabbage in 2 cups of water in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Simmer about 15 minutes until softened. Remove cabbage from the water and drain on paper towels until cool enough to handle. Reserve 1/3 cup of the cabbage cooking water for the tomato sauce.
Once the cabbage is cool, finely dice it and place in a large bowl.
Meanwhile, peel and finely mince the onion, carrot and garlic. I used a food processor for this but you can do it by hand.
Melt the butter in a pan and cook the carrot mixture, sprinkled with the salt, for about 5 minutes until softened.
Mix the carrot mixture with the cabbage.
Finely dice the kielbasa.
Mix the kielbasa, rice and eggs into the vegetable mixture.
And mix in the ground beef and black pepper.
It's easiest to use your hands for this. Get in there and mix it all together gently until combined.
Once combined, roll into golfball-sized meatballs and flatten into little loafs.
You can place half of these on a tray in the freezer at this point if you don't need them all. Freeze on the tray until solid then place in a freezer bag.
Place the ones you want to cook on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes until cooked through.
While the rolls are baking, make the tomato sauce. For that, mix in a blender:
1 can whole tomatoes
1/3 cup reserved cabbage cooking liquid
1/4 cup vodka
2 tablespoons dill
salt and pepper
Blend until smooth, then place in a medium pot. Don't put the butter in the blender like I did, add it to the pot as the sauce warms. Simmer about 20 minutes. The sauce will be thin.
Once the rolls are cooked and the sauce is ready, place the cabbage rolls on a plate and ladle sauce over it. Top with minced dill.
Garnish with a bit of sour cream. You can serve these with a nice green salad or whatever you like on the side, but they're packed with veggies, easy to make and very tasty.