This beauty is the love child of several ideas. I love brats and sautéed cabbage. I also love my Paleo meatballs and meatloaf. I went looking for cabbage roll recipes and ended up combining a few ideas into one recipe I thought sounded good. They turned out just right. The cabbage on the outside is soft and sweet. The meat in the middle is nice and moist. The beauty of this recipe is how you can play with the flavors. This one has an italian influence, but you could use chili or tex mex seasonings, or you could spice this up with some red pepper flakes. If you are Primal and include dairy you could do a bacon cheese burger kind of concept. I love recipes I can recreate with different flavors! Here’s the recipe as I made it.
- One large head of cabbage ( You’ll need to get about 12 leaves to use)
- 1 lb ground beef (I used 85% lean)
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1 small cauliflower (riced) or half a large head.
- half of a sweet onion. (Or one real small one) chopped.
- 4-6 large cloves of garlic minced or pressed.
- 2-3 tbs olive oil
- 1 can tomato paste
- 2 cans of crushed tomatoes
- 2 tbs white wine or red wine vinegar
- 2 -3 tbs oregano
- 2 eggs
- salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
Here we go, First things first you need to do is separate the leaves from the head of cabbage. The easiest way to do this is to sort of steam the head first so the leaves soften a bit. If you have done this before and have a method that works, then go for it. Heres how I did it. I chopped the bottom of the head off and using a strong small knife wrestled the core out of the bottom.
Next I placed it in a microwave safe dish with about 2 inches or so of water with the cored side down. I microwaved it for about 13 minutes. No real reason for 13 minutes. I thought 10 sounded too short and 15 too long. Looking back 15 minutes might have been fine, it was a really big head of cabbage and the inner leaves were harder to separate.
Once it was steamed a bit I gently peeled the leaves away one at a time careful to avoid ripping them. This takes a bit of finesse. Once you have done 1 or 2 you’ll get the hang of it. Save the first 2 or 3 outer leaves for lining your baking dish, this keeps the rolls from burning in the oven.
By the time I was done I had acquired a nice little tower of cabbage leaves.
Let these leaves dry while you move on to making the sauce and cauliflower rice for the filling.
In a medium sauce pan add a tbs of olive oil and 2 or 3 large garlic cloves minced or pressed over medium heat. As your garlic heats through add in the crushed tomatoes and a tbs of oregano. Stir a few times then add the white or red wine vinegar, as well a little bit of salt and pepper to taste. This will be your sauce for the top of the cabbage rolls. Turn the heat to low and let it simmer while you start of the filling.
In order to keep the meat filling moist you need to add moisture! In a medium sauté pan add another tbs of olive oil, your remaining garlic cloves minced or pressed, and the chopped onion. Season with a little salt and pepper and sauté until onion begins to sweat and become translucent. Next add in your tomato paste and stir to blend in the onion mixture.
Once that is blended and warmed through add a 1/4 of your topping sauce and incorporate it. You can turn off the heat while you “rice” the cauliflower for the filling.
If you’ve never riced cauliflower, it is super easy. You can use a regular hand-held cheese greater or you can whip out the food processor with shredding attachment. What ever works for you! You want to shred the cauliflower so that the pieces begin to resemble rice. I used my food processor, this is what it looks like.
Now you are ready to make the filling. In a large mixing bowl add the ground beef, ground pork, 2 eggs, riced cauliflower, 2 tbs oregano, the tomato and onion mixture you made (this adds, moisture and flavor) and salt and pepper (to taste, everyone has a different tolerance for salt so I often leave my recommendation loose on this but a tsp of each may be a good place to start. It’s always easier to add more at the dinner table, but it’s really hard to take it back out. ) Dig in there with your hands and really mix this all up well.
Woohoo! Now you are ready to stuff and roll the cabbage. Get out a LARGE casserole or baking dish and line the bottom with the 2 or 3 outer leaves. This keeps your rolls from burning and sticking.
Next take a leaf, lay it curved side up and add a small handful of your meaty filling.
Start by rolling the bottom up and folding the sides in as you roll.
Keep rolling up until it looks like this. Then add it to your casserole dish.
Once your rolls are done and in the baking dish, add about half your sauce to the top of them.
Cover with foil and bake at 350 for about hour. When they are done the cabbage leaves will have turned a little translucent and should be soft and easy to cut. add more sauce to the top and enjoy! If you do dairy, some grated parmesan or romano cheese would be really nice!
Cut open it should look like this. Um, um, um!!