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Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls

These Unstuffed or Lazy Cabbage Rolls, make the perfect quick, easy and delicious weeknight meal. No stuffing required, no side dish needed, it’s a meal in itself! 

Unstuffed cabbage in the pan and in a white bowl.


 

I love this recipe, this is a recipe that my Mom made way back when. I imagine this is when casseroles were all the rage, from a Tuna Noodle Casserole to a Creamy Cauliflower Casserole to one of our favorite Leftover Mashed Potato Casserole.

When I moved to Italy from Canada my Mom gave me most of her recipes all written out in her hand writing, but unfortunately this was not in the group. My sister had a copy so I was in luck. It is one of the tastiest and easiest casseroles to make.

Recipe Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • Garlic – clove
  • Onion – one small onion
  • Ground beef – lean ground beef
  • Cabbage – shredded
  • Tomatoes – canned Marziano or Plum tomatoes or diced tomatoes
  • Water – or broth
  • Rice – I use white rice, long grain
  • Oregano
  • Hot pepper flakes – or black pepper optional
  • Salt
  • Thyme –
  • Basil – fresh basil leaves or parsley
Ingredients for the recipe.

Can I use fresh tomatoes instead of canned plum/Marzano tomatoes?

Yes, fresh tomatoes can be used, but you may need to adjust the amount of water and cooking time to achieve the desired consistency.

How to make an Unstuffed cabbage roll recipe

In a large frying pan or pot add the olive oil, garlic, onion, and ground beef, cook on medium heat until almost all browned.

Browning the ground beef and spices in the pan.

Then add the cabbage, tomatoes, water and rice, stir to combine, add the spices and combine.

The ingredients in the pan before cooked.

Cook over low-medium heat until cooked and thickened. 

The cooked unstuffed cabbage rolls in the pan.

How To Make Homemade Broth

For this recipe I like to use a vegetable based broth but if you prefer you can make a meat broth with either beef or chicken. Of course, you can use a good quality store bought one or water.

In a large pot add a carrot and an onion peeled and cut in half, a celery stalk cut in two, a bay leaf, 2-3 pepper corns, 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of salt and 12 cups of water, if you make a meat based broth then add a few pieces of meat (bone in is also a good idea).

Bring it to a boil then lower the heat and simmer for about three hours. Stir occasionally and remove any foam that appears on the top of the broth. Pour the broth through a sieve, and let the liquid cool completely if not using.

Any unused broth can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for 4-5 days. It can also be frozen in freezer safe containers and will keep for up to 6 months.

What type of rice works best in this recipe?

Long grain rice is recommended because it holds its shape and texture well during cooking, but you can use other types of rice if you adjust the liquid ratios and cooking times accordingly.

Cabbage roll casserole on a wooden spoon and in the pan.

Recipe FAQs

Can I substitute ground turkey or chicken for lean ground beef?

Yes, ground turkey or chicken can be used as an alternative to lean ground beef, offering a lighter flavor profile while maintaining the texture.

Is it necessary to cook the rice before adding it to the mixture?

No, the rice should be added uncooked as it will cook in the tomato and water mixture, absorbing the flavors of the sauce.

How can I make this recipe vegetarian?

To make this recipe vegetarian, substitute the lean ground beef with a plant-based ground meat alternative or increase the amount of vegetables, such as mushrooms or zucchini, to maintain the dish’s hearty feel.

Can the unstuffed cabbage be made in the oven?

This recipe can be made in the oven in a dutch oven or oven proof baking dish. Bake for approximately 30 minutes at 400F/200C. It’s best to brown the ground beef as in step 1 before baking, be sure to cook the rice al dente also.

What can I serve with Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls?

This dish is hearty and can be served as a complete meal on its own, or you can pair it with a simple side salad or crusty bread.

Recipe Tips

  1. If the rice isn’t fully cooked, ensure there’s enough liquid in the skillet to cook the rice. If the rice is still hard after the suggested cooking time, add a little more water and continue simmering, checking every few minutes.
  2. If the dish ends up too liquidy after the rice has cooked, then increase the heat and simmer uncovered for a few minutes to allow some of the liquid to evaporate.
  3. Be sure to taste the dish before serving or almost done and if you find it needs more flavor. Then adjust the seasoning as necessary. Adjust to your preference by adding more salt, pepper, or herbs.

How to store it

Any leftovers should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge. It will keep for up to 3 days. It can also be frozen in a freezer safe container. It will keep for up to 2-3 months in the freezer. Thaw overnight in the fridge, re-heat either in the microwave, oven or in a skillet on the stove.

Cabbage rolls in a white bowl.

More Delicious Casseroles

I have made cabbage rolls the classic way and yes they are amazing, but very time consuming, too many dirty dishes, but these Lazy Cabbage Rolls come together so quickly! And what could be better then everything mixed together in one bowl? Let me know if you try it. Buon Appetito!

Cabbage roll casserole on a wooden spoon and in the pan.

Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls

Rosemary Molloy
These Unstuffed or Lazy Cabbage Rolls, make the perfect quick, easy and delicious weeknight meal. No stuffing required and no side dish needed.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 4 servings
Calories 370 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-2 clove garlic (minced)
  • 1 small onion (chopped)
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 4 cups shredded or finely chopped cabbage
  • 1 can whole Plum/Marzano Tomatoes chopped (nothing added) (14 ounces)
  • cups water or broth (homemade or store bought)
  • ¾ cup uncooked rice (long grain)
  • ½-1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1-2 pinches of hot pepper flakes (if desired)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 pinches thyme (optional)
  • 4-5 fresh basil leaves or parsley chopped (or more if desired)

Instructions
 

  • In a large frying pan add the olive oil, garlic, onion, and ground beef, cook on medium heat until almost all browned.
  • Then add the cabbage, tomatoes, water and rice, stir to combine, add the spices and combine. Cook over low-medium heat half covered for approximately 30 minutes or until cooked and thickened. The last 10 minutes remove the lid to thicken. Enjoy!

Notes

Any leftovers should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge. It will keep for up to 3 days. It can also be frozen in a freezer safe container. It will keep for up to 2-3 months in the freezer. Thaw overnight in the fridge, re-heat either in the microwave, oven or in a skillet on the stove.
This recipe can be made in the oven in a dutch oven or oven proof baking dish. Bake for approximately 30 minutes at 400F/200C. It’s best to brown the ground beef as in step 1 before baking and cook the rice al dente.
 

Nutrition

Calories: 370kcal | Carbohydrates: 34g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 70mg | Sodium: 389mg | Potassium: 577mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 69IU | Vitamin C: 27mg | Calcium: 60mg | Iron: 3mg
Did You Make This Recipe?Please leave a comment below or pin it to your Pinterest account!

Updated from October 30, 2014

50 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    It was delicious. A couple of changes, for next time, I will use beef broth instead of water and a wee bit more salt. I used fresh basil and that was a wonderful addition. My husband loved it.

  2. 5 stars
    Scrumptious! I’ve made this dish before, but this is the best and easiest ever. I’m a tomato lover, so I used a 28 oz. can, and I added a bay leaf and went heavy on seasonings. I topped each bowl with grated cheese. I love that it’s all cooked in one pot. Mm mmm.

  3. Love your recipes – easy & delicious
    Where can I get your aprons that have An Italian in my Kitchen?
    Cheers & Hugs

  4. I brown 2 lbs jimmy dean ground sausage..drain. Add cabbage head chopped. Add 2 cans Rotel maters , chopped onion. Sweet Vidalia. Chopped garlic. Season. Top with water. Cook till done. …

  5. 4 stars
    Turned out great. I doubled the recipie and thought the rice seemed like a small amount and added an additional 1l2 cup. Don’t! It’ll look like the rice isn’t enough until near the end. Lol. I had some rice turn out undercooked due to me doubting the listed recipie. But otherwise thise recipie rocked.

  6. 5 stars
    Very easy and tasty. Love the simplicity. Our family is Polish and love golumbkis made fresh and simple…not swimming in tomato soup. This one tastes just like our long version of wrapping, etc. Thank You!

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