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 (or Cabbage Rolls) 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 and/or pork mixed with rice or potato as well as onions and carrots) rolled in cabbage leaves and baked in a creamy 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.
How to tenderize and prep the cabbage leaves
There are several ways to tenderize the cabbage leaves so they are pliable for stuffing and rolling, but my preferred way to tenderize them is by simmering them in a big pot of hot water.
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, then remove from heat. Remove cabbage from the water, drain, and allow to cool until it has reached a temperature that you can comfortably work with the cabbage by hand. Carefully separate the outer leaves of the cabbage one at a time, working inward. Reserve separated leaves to the side to be filled.
Baking low and slow is best
This dish bakes low and slow for 2 hours in a dutch oven, 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 its sauce, so I highly recommend cooking for the full two hours, especially if you are cooking your Golubtsi in multiple layers.
If you do not have a large dutch oven, this recipe can also be made in a casserole dish topped with an oven-safe lid or tin foil.
What tools do I need to make this recipe?
- cutting board
- a good chefs knife
- a stockpot or large soup pot
- a medium saucepot
- a large dutch oven. Alternatively, you may use a casserole dish topped with an oven-safe lid or tin foil.
- 2 large prep bowls to reserve the cooked cabbage leaves and mix the filling
- measuring cups and spoons
- 2 wooden spoons to mix the filling and the sauce
- a can opener
Storage and Freezing
Leftovers may be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to three months in airtight freezer-safe containers. To reheat, thaw in the refrigerator overnight then bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F, or from frozen for 50-60 minutes at 350 degrees F. Thawed Golubtsi can alternatively be reheated in the microwave for 2-4 minutes per serving.
A note for special diets
This recipe for Golubtsi is grain-free, gluten-free, refined sugar-free and friendly for Keto diets at 10 net carbs per serving. 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.Print
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 tsp sea salt
- 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, then remove from heat. Remove cabbage from the water, drain, and allow to cool until it has reached a temperature that you can comfortably work with the cabbage by hand. Carefully separate the outer leaves of the cabbage one at a time, working inward. Reserve separated leaves to the side to be filled.
- 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.
Nutritional information on Whip & Wander is provided as a courtesy and is approximate only. We cannot guarantee the accuracy of the nutritional information given for any recipe on this site.
- Serving Size: 1 serving
- Calories: 361
- Sugar: 8 g
- Sodium: 1034 mg
- Fat: 23 g
- Saturated Fat: 10 g
- Carbohydrates: 14 g
- Fiber: 4 g
- Protein: 25 g
- Cholesterol: 93 mg