Un-stuffed Cabbage Casserole

Piece of Unstuffed Cabbage Casserole
slice of un-stuffed cabbage

This post, and delicious recipe, are from my friend Robin Horn over at Seasonal Eating.  A foodie from a very young age, Robin lives in Santa Cruz, California and is a proponent of seasonal eating and CSAs.  

Cabbage is coming into season and there are so many delicious ways to serve it.  While I love stuffed cabbage I confess that the time it takes to make all those little rolls (especially compared to how quickly they get scarfed down) is somewhat of a deterrent.  This seems like a tasty solution; and since it makes 12 servings it would be great for a big family gathering (or for delicious leftovers).

Someday I will make stuffed cabbage leaves, the delicious galumkis that my mother and grandmother used to make…sort of. The family recipe was never written down, so this is a project for when time, patience, and creativity are simultaneously expanded. In the meantime, working on my cooking goal of 
exploring my Polish cooking roots, I found a Weight Watchers stuffed cabbage casserole, and set out to make a no-beef, more easily prepared version.

First Mix in Spices, Rice, Onion & Carrot

Because the original recipe had a number of cabbage leaves wrapped around one mound of filling, it was tricky to cut and serve—and to fill in the first place. So, I simply chopped all of the cabbage and put half in the filling and half beneath the filling, where all the juices from the filling drip down deliciously.

I topped the filling with a thin tomato sauce. Originally I tried a layer of cabbage on the top, but the tomato sauce dried out instead of flavoring the cabbage. So I replaced this layer with a few thin cabbage strips. The meat and rice filling right below the tomato sauce draw the tomato flavor down into the casserole because the uncooked rice is “thirsty.”

Mixing Meat with Liquids
Next Mix in Tomato Sauce, Egg & Broth

While not as time consuming as stuffed cabbage leaves, there are many steps in this recipe and it must cook for 1½  hours. Just like stuffed cabbage, the leaves must be precooked. Save time by having two people chop veggies, measure and mix meat filling ingredients,  make the sauce, and assemble the layers.

You can use lean ground beef in this recipe if you prefer. I added paprika from my family recipe. You could choose various herbs, garlic powder, and/or a hint of cayenne. If you’re braver than I am, you can blend the meat mixture with your hands, like my Mom did. It’s faster, and if I’d had some latex gloves, I would have tried it.
[note from Mira:  I find it's simple to mix meat mixtures like this in my blender.  And since I'm often working with cold ingredients I don't get that chilled effect on my hands which I find unpleasant.]

Mixing Cabbage with Meat
Last Mix in Cabbage

Un-Stuffed Cabbage Casserole
serves 12

~ 2 ½ lbs. cabbage
1 lb. ground turkey
2/3 cup shredded carrot
½ cup minced onion
½ cup brown rice
½ tsp. salt
1½ tbsp. paprika
1 large egg
1¼ cup chicken or veggie broth
24 oz jar tomato sauce
2 tbsp. wine vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
olive oil for greasing pan

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Remove 3 outer leaves from cabbage to make the strips of cabbage for the topping. 
Cut remaining cabbage into quarters without removing core.

Boil each quarter cabbage in water until tender, about 5 minutes. 
Drain well and cool. 
Chop cabbage quarters into ½ inch dice, discarding cores. 
Boil the 3 cabbage leaves in water 3 – 4 minutes, until tender. 
Remove with slotted spoon, drain and cool. 
Cut out rib and make ½ inch strips of soft parts. 
Dice ribs with quarter cabbages.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Put ground turkey into bowl and break up into pieces with wooden spatula. 
Mix in carrot, onion, rice, salt, and paprika. 
Beat egg together with ¼ cup broth till smooth. 
Add this mixture and ½ cup tomato sauce to meat mixture and beat till evenly blended. Mix in half of the cooked chopped cabbage evenly.

To make the sauce, combine the remaining tomato sauce with wine vinegar and sugar.

Spreading Tomato Sauce Over Meat and Cabbage
Make An Even Layer of Meat on Cabbage

Lightly oil a 9” x 14” baking pan. 
Spread the remaining half of the cabbage in the bottom of the pan. 
Pour the remaining (1) cup of broth around the edges of the pan. 
Spoon on the meat mixture. 
Smooth out with a rubber spatula to make an even layer.

Place the cabbage strips across the top, leaving space between them.
Pour tomato sauce over top of meat mixture and cabbage strips and spread into even layer.

Bake for 1½  hours. 
Let stand at least 20 minutes before serving so liquid is absorbed.

About Mira

Mira Dessy is The Ingredient Guru. A holistic nutrition professional, author, and a popular public speaker, she knows that it's not just what you eat, but what's in what you eat. She is the author of The Pantry Principle: how to read the label and understand what’s really in their food. Dessy is a Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner whose mission is to educate and empower consumers. She curates the Lean Clean Green Subscription box, the premier, organic, earth-friendly, healthy, sustainable subscription box which can be found online at https://theingredientguru.memberbox.com