Pork & Rice Cabbage Rolls

Cabbage rolls can be found in traditional cuisines all across Europe and the Middle East, though in my head, I most associate them with eastern Europe. In keeping with our Ukrainian dinner theme, we made these cabbage rolls in more of a Ukrainian style. As with every “traditional dish” I’ve ever researched or made, there are regional variations and personal variations. Everyone’s grandma has the best recipe, so per usual, here’s my disclaimer that this is not THE ONLY way to make it. *Also. According to the internet, utilizing jarred tomato sauce is a common shortcut used in this type of cabbage roll preparation. I had intended to make my own tomato sauce, but time got away from me, and I just stuck with the shortcut. Please feel free to make your own for a less-reliant-on-packaged-foods approach.* I actually intended to wait to share this recipe until I made it again and made my own sauce, but in the end I felt these were pretty delicious and worth sharing as is!

Believe it or not, I’ve actually never had cabbage rolls before that I can recall. But I was definitely missing out. These were delicious! A little bit of work, but worth it in my opinion. My rolling skills got a lot better as my prepping went on.

We made this dish along with Ukrainian New Potatoes in our tiny way to honor the people suffering through ongoing war in that country. 💙💛

Pork & Rice Cabbage Rolls

(Adapted from here & here)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 head of green cabbage
  • 2/3 cup of rice (dry)
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 large white/yellow onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large carrot, shredded
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • Neutral oil, if needed
  • Salt & pepper
  • Jar of your favorite tomato sauce*
  • 1/4 cup sour cream, plus more for serving
  • 1/4 cup stock (any kind)
Instructions:
  1. Bring a well-salted pot of water to a boil, filled with enough water to cover the head of cabbage. Cut out the core of the cabbage up to roughly a third of the head. Once the water is boiling, add the cabbage and cook at a simmer for 8-10 minutes until the cabbage has softened. Remove to a strainer to drain.
  2. Meanwhile, cook your rice per instructions. Then remove to the side in a large mixing bowl.
  3. In another large pan, cook your ground pork, seasoned with 5+ turns of fresh ground black pepper. Once most of the pink is gone (a little remaining is ok – it’s going to bake again), add to the bowl with the rice, retaining the fat in the pan.
  4. Add additional oil only if needed to the leftover pork fat in the pan. Add the onions and carrots to the pan and cook for ~4 minutes. Season with 1/4 tsp salt and 5 more turns of fresh ground black pepper. Add the garlic and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until all are softened and fragrant. Add this mixture to the mixing bowl.
  5. Add the chopped parsley to the bowl and stir to combine. Add additional salt/pepper to taste.
  6. Now pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees.
  7. Separate the cabbage leaves and make a V-shaped slice to remove the hard central stem. Try not to slice further than 1/3 – 1/2 the length of the leaf.
  8. Now get a large glass baking dish and spread 1/4 cup of tomato sauce across the bottom of the dish.
  9. Assemble the rolls by spooning a scoop of the filling mixture onto one side of each cabbage leaf. Roll the leaf around the filling, tucking the edges in. Place each roll, seam-side down, in the baking dish. Repeat until you run out of filling, leaves, or fill the dish. (I had a few leaves leftover.) You can really squish the rolls in together.
  10. Spoon another 1/2 cup of tomato sauce over top of the rolls. Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour.
  11. In another bowl, stir together the sour cream, stock, and another 1/2 cup of tomato sauce. After baking for an hour, remove the dish and pour the remaining mixture overtop. Bake for an additional ~20 minutes.
  12. Serve with additional sour cream on the side if desired.
Serving Size 4-6

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