The cabbage rolls I’ve always eaten have been of the Polish variety with a red sauce. My Mom always made them from a recipe she received from her brother-in-law’s mother. They were always delicious and had always been one of my favorite Sunday dinners. The problem with them, at least for me anyway, is that they are labor intensive and take up a fair amount of the day between the preparation of the filling, parboiling the cabbage, and then slow roasting them in the oven.
But what if I could speed them along in the form of a meatball with some extra cabbage simmered in the sauce? After all, my favorite part of cabbage rolls was always was the extra cabbage mom slow roasted in the tomato sauce. In this speed-up version, I finely julienne the cabbage and simmer it with the meatballs in the tomato sauce on the stove top. The entire meal is ready in just over 30-minutes and has all the flavors of the original cabbage rolls in about 1/4 of the time. One-quarter!
I served mine over a bed of cabbage but you could serve this with mashed potatoes or rice to soak up the sauce. My daughter loves mashed potatoes so that’s always an obvious choice in our house.
There are both cabbage and rice hidden in the meatballs themselves along with some tomato sauce, so the traditional cabbage roll flavor is really working throughout this dish.
Cabbage Roll Meatballs
For the Meatballs:
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 1/2 cup uncooked converted rice [See Notes 1]
- 1/2 cup onion , minced
- 1 tsp garlic , minced
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning spice blend [See Note 2]
- 1 egg , beaten
- 1/4 cabbage , finely diced for meatballs
- 1/2 cup tomato sauce [See Note 3]
For the Sauce:
- 3/4 cabbage , finely julienne for sauce
- 1/2 cup uncooked converted rice , optional [See Note 1]
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can tomatoes, diced with juices
- 1 (28-ounce) can tomato sauce, divided [See Note 3]
- Add the ground beef into a large mixing bowl. Add the rice, 1/2 cup tomato sauce, salt, pepper, onions, Italian seasoning blend, egg, onions, and garlic and mix until well combined. Once combined, add the finely chopped cabbage set aside for the meatballs and mix until combined. Then form the meat mixture into 1-inch meatballs, about the size of a golf ball.
- Heat a large sauce pot of dutch oven over medium heat. Add 2 tbsp olive oil into the bottom of the pot. Brown the meatballs on all sides, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Add the reserved tomato sauce (24 ounces) to the sauce pot along with the diced tomatoes. Stir in the rice for the sauce (optional) and the cabbage for the sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Gently stir until combined, taking care not to break up the meatballs.
- Cover tightly with a lid or some aluminum foil and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the rice in the meatballs is cooked through.
- Serve on mashed potatoes or alone with the simmered cabbage and rice.