Cabbage Rolls (Gołąbki) are a traditional Polish dish that I grew up eating, amongst many others. However I’m going to admit – this was my first time ever making this. I had a craving for it, and although it is a bit time consuming, it was pretty easy to prepare and turned out delicious. It’s very important to make sure the cabbage is fully cooked – don’t make the same mistake I did and dump out all of the boiling water before checking to see if it’s done! ;)
This recipe makes about 16 cabbage rolls, so if you want to make less, cut the ingredients in half. This recipe is also very easily adapted for the freezer (instructions below). Since it is a bit time consuming I prefer to make a large batch and freeze some for later – instant lunch or dinner! Usually I serve this with ketchup and a heaping scoop of buttered mashed potatoes. Yum!
Fill a large stockpot with water and about 1 tblsp salt; bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, remove core from the cabbage. Once the water is boiling, place the cabbage in the stockpot. Cook for 20 minutes, or until cabbage is softened enough to pull off individual leaves. Drain cabbage and set aside to cool. (You can also rinse with cold water to speed up the cooling process.) When cool enough to handle, gently pull individual leaves apart and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a kettle as you start the next step.
Mix onion, pork, rice, salt & pepper in a large bowl until well combined. Put about 1/3 to ½ cup of meat mixture on each cabbage leaf. Roll away from you to encase the meat. Flip the right side of the leaf to the middle, then the left side over and roll. Place rolls seam-side down in a large casserole dish (or aluminum pan). Repeat this process until all of the meat mixture is used. Any leftover cabbage can be chopped and put on top of the rolls.
In a bowl combine the 6 cups of boiling water with the tomato paste. Whisk until the paste is fully dissolved into a tomato sauce. Pour the sauce over the cabbage rolls.
Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour, or until cabbage is tender and meat is cooked.
Serve topped with sour cream if desired.
Freezer method 1: This dish can be made completely in advance, cooled and then frozen in a casserole dish or as individual servings in containers. Casserole: defrost overnight in the fridge and bake covered at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes until heated through. If not defrosted, bake for about 1.5 to 2 hours until heated through. Individually frozen servings can be simply microwaved on a plate.
Freezer method 2: Prepare the dish, cover with foil, freeze and bake at a later time. It may be convenient to do this in a large aluminum disposable pan (big lasagna size) which will make for easy cleanup. It is best to defrost a day in advance in the refrigerator, then cook at 350 degrees for one hour. If the dish is not defrosted, cook for about 2-2.5 hours until cabbage rolls are well done.