Make cabbage rolls without heating the oven this summer. This vegetarian version is made on the stovetop using a Dutch oven.
In some regions cabbage is a fall crop. But here in the Mid-Columbia, cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables are ready to harvest in early summer. I don’t grow them myself – but found this beautiful cabbage at the Farmer’s Market the other day and couldn’t resist. It was perfect for a big pot of cabbage rolls.
Homemade Cabbage Rolls
I’ve been making this recipe, or some version of it, for over 30 years. The original was published in a magazine a long time ago – so long I don’t even remember which magazine. Over the years I have tweaked it a bit, adding more herbs and different cheeses to boost flavor. This year I worked to make it low-carb too – since my body has decided that it doesn’t like carbs of any kind these days,
It has become a family tradition to make one big batch every year. In the early days it seemed like there was enough to eat every day for weeks. As the kids grew the batch disappeared more quickly. Now that we are empty nesters the batch lasts a long time again. But it’s a good dish to make on the weekend, since it does take a little time to prepare, and then eat for leftovers two or three days during a busy week.
Vegetarian Cabbage Rolls
Most cabbage roll recipes call for ground beef. This recipe caught my eye because it uses rice, eggs, and cheese instead of beef. The original used mozzarella cheese and only tiny amounts of basil and fennel seeds. I have boosted both herbs since today we prefer more richly flavored foods than were common 40 years ago. I also like to use a more flavorful cheese, but one that melts easily like Fontina or Gruyere.
Low-Carb Cabbage Rolls
The recipe uses brown rice. If you, like me, need even fewer carbs, I have included my fix below – substituting flaxseed meal for some of the rice. It changes the texture a little, but still tastes great. Of course, you can use brown rice only if you prefer.
- 1 large cabbage
- 1 cup raw brown rice or ½ cup raw brown rice + ⅓ cup flaxseed meal
- 2 (15 oz) cans tomato sauce
- 8 ounces mozzarella, fontina, or other cheese, diced
- 2 large eggs
- 1 large zucchini, chopped
- 1 medium eggplant, chopped
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Add water to a large Dutch oven and bring to boil.
- Core cabbage. Place cabbage cut side up in oven.
- Carefully separate leaves as outer leaves become slightly soft.
- Remove 10-12 large outer leaves and drain in colander.
- Remove remaining cabbage from Dutch oven and set aside to cool.
- Empty the Dutch oven and return it to the stovetop.
- Meanwhile, prepare rice following manufacturer’s directions. Set aside to cool.
- To make filling: Add ½ cup tomato sauce, flaxseed meal (if using), cheese, and eggs to cooked rice.
- Trim rib of each cabbage leaf very thin.
- Coarsely shred some of the remaining cabbage.
- Add shredded cabbage, zucchini and eggplant to empty Dutch oven. Add remaining tomato sauce, basil, fennel, and salt and pepper.
- On center of each cabbage leaf, place about ⅓ cup of filling. Fold sides toward center, then top toward center, then bottom toward center. Secure with a long toothpick if desired.
- Place cabbage rolls, seam side down, on top of mixture in Dutch oven. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for about 50 minutes.
Tips and Hints for Cooking Cabbage Rolls
- Don’t be tempted to overfill the cabbage rolls. Overfilled rolls leads to escaping filling while cooking. Still delicious, but not as attractive.
- I use long cocktail toothpicks to secure the rolls, although regular toothpicks work too.
- Keep the cooking temperature fairly low to prevent scorching or sticking.
- The cabbage head should be at least three pounds. Larger is fine, smaller may not have enough large leaves to make rolls.
- To reheat leftover rolls, return Dutch oven to stovetop and slowly heat.