Ukrainian Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Holubtsi, or stuffed cabbage rolls, are a Ukrainian staple. This meal has a long history, and like many European recipes, every mom and grandma makes it her own way.

Serve them with a side of bread, mashed potatoes or enjoy them simply on their own. They're freezer-friendly, too!

Ingredients

Wrappers:

  • 1 large green cabbage head

Filling:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small red bell pepper, roughly chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 1/3 cup cooked lentils
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper 
  • Salt to taste

Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cans (14.10 ounces) diced tomatoes
  • 2 to 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • Salt (to taste)

Instructions:

Wrappers:

  1. Remove core and outer leaves of the cabbage head.
  2. Fill a large pot with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Place the cabbage head inside and cover.
  3. Let it steam until the outer layer of leaves are translucent and pliable.
  4. Remove the cabbage and place in a large colander. Remove leaves carefully to prevent tearing. Let them dry while you make the filling. 

Filling:

  1. Place chopped onion, bell pepper and carrots in a food processor with the S blade. Pulse them until you have a finely chopped consistency.
  2. Sauté the vegetables in a large skillet on medium-high heat until liquid has evaporated. 
  3. Add olive oil and sauté for a couple more minutes.
  4. Add in the rest of the filling ingredients to the skillet and mix well. Take off the heat and set aside.

Sauce:

  1. In a large pot on medium-high heat, sauté the onion in olive oil until translucent and fragrant. 
  2. Add the diced tomatoes and tomato paste, stir well and let it simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
    Note: The vegetable broth and bay leaves will be added later.

Assemble the Rolls:

  1. With a pairing knife, cut and remove the center rib from a cabbage leaf.
  2. Rib side up, scoop ⅓-½ cup of the filling mixture onto the leaf. For easy rolling, place the filling about a couple of inches towards the middle. Then shape the filling into a compact form.
  3. Roll the leaf over the filling and gently pull it towards you to make a tight and neat roll. Bring in the sides of the leaf over the middle, then roll it tightly like a burrito.
  4. Repeat this process for each leaf. 

Cook the rolls:

  1. Ladle 1 cup of tomato sauce into the bottom of a 13x9 casserole dish.
  2. Place the cabbage rolls side by side in the dish. Nest bay leaves under or between each roll.
  3. Pour enough vegetable stock to into the baking dish until it comes half-way up the sides of the the cabbage rolls.
  4. Cover with foil and bake on 350 for 1 hour.
  5. Remove the foil and bake for another 30 minutes. Check occasionally to make sure the liquid hasn’t completely evaporated. Add more if needed.
  6. Remove bay leaves, then serve!

Featured in: May/June 2022

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