Unstuffed Cabbage

This recipe comes courtesy of my friend’s mother. It’s “unstuffed” cabbage because it contains all the ingredients of the stuffed variety, but the meat is formed into meatballs, which cook in the sauce along with sliced cabbage. This is a very simple dinner that pairs well with crusty bread and with lots of different herbs, if you’re into seasonings.

Un-difficult and unstuffed:

  • 1 lb ground beef (or turkey, or veggie “beef”)
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tbsp uncooked long-grain white rice
  • 1/4 onion, minced (I used red onion, but any kind will do)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced (separate them though–one is for the meatballs, the other for the sauce)
  • 1/4 cup very cold water
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • 24-28 oz tomato passata or similar thin tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 small green cabbage
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

We’ll start with the meatballs. In a small bowl, combine one clove of garlic, the egg, the rice, the water, the onion, and a dash of salt and pepper. Once these ingredients are mixed evenly, add the meat by mixing it in with your hands to form a smooth, uniform paste. Form the meat into walnut-sized balls, and set aside.

Now it’s time to make the sauce. Place the tomato paste, passata, onion, brown sugar, lemon juice, the other clove of garlic, and a pinch or two of salt and pepper in a large pot, stir, and turn it on medium heat. While you wait for the mixture to boil, you can chop your cabbage. Cut the end off and then chop it into 1″-thick roundels, cutting each roundel into three or four 3″- or 4″-long chunks (cut around any core you may encounter). By the time you’re done, the tomato mixture should be boiling.

Now add the cabbage to the boiling tomato mixture, and stir. Next, place the meatballs gently on top of the cabbage, cover the pot, and let it cook for about five minutes, until the meatballs are set (they don’t have to be cooked through, but they do need to stick together at least). Once they’re set, stir them around and spoon some of the cabbage and tomato sauce on top of them. Then cover the pot again, and cook everything for up to an hour, until the rice is cooked and the meatballs fall apart a bit. This recipe serves three people for a slightly sweet, warm winter dinner.

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