Chilly nights demand comfort food
Now that fall is officially here, I’m craving rich and hearty comfort foods. Dishes that take just a little love and care to prep, but are left to cook slowly, unaided by stirring, flipping, or prodding. Meals that are perfect to eat on nights when house windows get cold enough to form condensation and throw blankets start making a regular appearance when snuggled up on the couch. My Golubtsi are the perfect welcome to fall food, but they only get better as the nights get colder. This dish is a favorite cold weather comfort food that carries all the way through the chilly winter months.
What is Golubtsi?
Golubtsi, or Cabbage Rolls, is a hearty dish comprised of savory filling (usually beef or pork mixed with rice or potato as well as onions and carrots) rolled in cabbage leaves and baked in a tomato sauce. I’ve come across several different variations at both German and Russian restaurants locally, but they also have a huge presence in many other Central and Eastern European cuisines. One of my favorite restaurant versions is found at Kachka, a local Russian restaurant here in Portland. Their version is a sweet and sour take on Golubtsi, with a pork filling and a tomato sauce that includes sweet lingonberry preserves. If you ever have a chance to visit Portland, I highly recommend you make a stop at Kachka to try their version of Golubtsi and the rest of their delicious Russian menu – it’s one of my absolute favorite Portland dining options.
Low and slow is best
Fair warning, this dish is not difficult to prep but it does take some time (in the oven) to cook. This bakes low and slow for 2 hours, which I think is the best way to produce tender, fall apart Golubtsi. If you would like to shave the bake time down by half an hour, the meat should be cooked through to a safe temperature (165 degrees F) after 90 minutes and you technically can remove them from the oven at that point. However, the cabbage will continue to tenderize as it cooks in it’s sauce, so I highly recommend cooking for the full two hours, especially if you are cooking your Golubtsi in multiple layers.
A note for special diets
This recipe for Golubtsi is grain-free, gluten-free, refined sugar-free and friendly for Keto diets at 12 net carbs per serving (two large rolls). I prefer to use a lactose-free sour cream in this dish to keep it SIBO-friendly, but if lactose isn’t an issue for you a regular heavy sour cream will work just the same.
Golubtsi (Cabbage Rolls)
Yield 8 servings
For the cabbage rolls:
- 1 large head of cabbage, cored
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 lb ground Italian sausage
- 2 cups cauliflower, shredded
- 3/4 cup green onions, chopped
- 1/3 cup parsley, chopped
- 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
For the sauce:
- Add cored cabbage to a large pot of water over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook for 5-6 minutes, or until the leaves are tender and pliable. Remove cabbage from the water and allow to cool until it has reached a temperature that you can comfortably work with the cabbage by hand. You don't want to burn your fingers on piping hot cabbage leaves!
- While the cabbage cools, start prepping the filling. In a large bowl, add the ground beef, Italian sausage, shredded cauliflower, green onions, parsley, and black pepper. Mix until well incorporated. Reserve to the side.
- In a medium saucepan, over medium-high heat add the crushed tomatoes, sour cream, dill, garlic oil, and sea salt. Stir until combined and allow to come to a simmer. Cook for 2-3 minutes then remove from heat.
- Now if a good time to preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (177 C).
- In a large dutch oven or deep oven-safe baking dish, add 1/3 of the tomato sauce mixture to the bottom. Then assemble your cabbage rolls. Start by peeling an outer leaf off of the cooled cabbage head, then fill with your meat mixture. Roll like a burrito, tucking the sides in as you roll until it is a closed parcel. Stack each roll with the edge of the roll facing downward so they do not unroll and repeat, side by side until you have one well-packed layer.
- Depending on the size of your dutch oven or baking dish, you may end up with 1-3 layers. My baking dish allows 2 layers of 8-9 cabbage rolls, for a total of 16-18 rolls. After I complete each layer, I pour an additional portion of the tomato sauce over the top, finishing with the last of the sauce on the top layer.
- Bake, covered, for 90 minutes. Then remove the cover and bake for an additional 30 minutes. I like to serve this with an additional dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of fresh dill.
Fair warning, this dish is not difficult to prep but it does take some time (in the oven) to cook. This bakes low and slow for 2 hours, which I think is the best way to produce tender, fall apart Golubtsi. If you would like to shave the bake time down by half an hour, the meat should be cooked through to a safe temperature (165 degrees F) and you technically can remove them from the oven at that point. However, the cabbage will continue to tenderize as it cooks in it's sauce, so I highly recommend cooking for the full two hours, especially if you are cooking your Golubtsi in multiple layers.
Serving Size 2 golubtsi rolls with sauce
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value
Total Fat 26 g
Saturated Fat 11 g
Cholesterol 107 mg
Sodium 1038 mg
Total Carbohydrates 17 g
Dietary Fiber 5 g
Sugars 10 g
Protein 28 g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.