We like ground dark meat turkey instead of beef—you can also use pre-made tomato sauce if you don’t have time to make your own.
Our deputy editor Kate, who grew up in a Russian immigrant family in Brooklyn, NY is no stranger to stuffed cabbage. Her grandmother’s recipe uses all beef and slightly different seasonings, but this one still reminds her of home.
1 large head green cabbage
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
2 cups cooked rice
2 medium onions, grated on a box grater
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
3 cups Basic Tomato Sauce (see below)*
1/2 cup water
*basic tomato sauce (makes about 4 cups):
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, cut into ¼ inch dice
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 medium carrot, finely shredded
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tablespoon dried
2 (28-ounce) cans peeled whole tomatoes, crushed by hand, juices reserved
1. Bring a large pot half-full of water to a boil over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons salt.
2. Turn the cabbage upside down with the stem sticking up. With a long, thin knife, cut around the core, angling the knife slightly toward the center of the head. Remove the core and discard.
3. Trim away any large veins remaining in the cabbage, then carefully drop in the boiling water, being careful to avoid splashing. Keep the head submerged for about 2 minutes. Carefully remove the cabbage and pull off the outer leaves, holding them on a towel-lined tray. The idea is to remove the leaves without tearing them.
4. Return the cabbage to the pot, and after a couple of minutes pull off some more leaves and repeat until you’ve harvested as many large leaves as you can get. Cut thick veins away from the cooked leaves. Let the leaves cool and dry.
5. In a bowl, combine the beef, pork, rice, onions, fennel seeds, coriander, pepper, and 2 teaspoons salt and mix well.
6. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
7. Cover the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with 1 cup of the tomato sauce. To stuff the cabbages, take a full leaf (or two smaller leaves) and lay it flat on a work surface. Put about 1/2 cup of the meat mixture on the leaf. Fold the sides of the leaf over the ends of meat, then roll the leaf to close. Put the cabbage rolls in the baking pan seam side down, and repeat to fill the rest of the leaves, making 3 rows of 4 rolls.
8. In a bowl, mix the remaining 2 cups tomato sauce and the water and pour over the cabbage rolls. Pack any remaining cabbage leaves around the rolls. Cover the pan with foil.
9. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Serve hot from the oven.
*To make the tomato sauce, in a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until soft and light golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the carrot and thyme and cook 5 minutes more, until the carrot is quite soft. Add the tomatoes and their juice and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, until the sauce is as thick as hot cereal. Season with salt.
This sauce holds for 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer.