Stuffed cabbage rolls make for a savory, warm winter meal. Unfortunately, they are labor intensive. I came up with this “Unstuffed Cabbage Bake” as a way to get the same flavors, with much less time in the kitchen.
Unstuffed Cabbage Bake is a time-saving, budget-friendly, one-pan meal.
Traditionally, stuffed cabbage rolls require that you make a sauce and meat mixture before blanching cabbage leaves and assembling everything into rolls for baking. This easily requires two hours in the kitchen. For some reason, it’s the blanching that really seems laborious to me, but it’s necessary to make the cabbage leaves pliable for rolling.
I did my best to turn this comfort food into a time-saving, budget friendly, one-pan meal. I began by browning one pound of ground beef with one large onion, one sweet pepper, and 3 cloves of garlic. While browning, I added salt, pepper, and seasoning. Once the meat was cooked through, I added a handful of chopped spinach and wilted that down. Spinach isn’t normally included in Stuffed Cabbage Rolls, but I take any opportunity I can to increase the nutrient density of a family meal.
After the meat has browned, add the spinach and begin to wilt it down.
While all of the above ingredients were cooking, I chopped a medium head of green cabbage into one inch pieces. The question of how much cabbage to use probably depends on personal taste. The first time I made it, I used the entire head of cabbage as pictured here. While it tasted good, it was a bit too much cabbage for my body to digest happily. Upon making this a second time, I used about half as much cabbage as pictured, and found that to suit my personal tolerance better.
Cabbage is a powerhouse vegetable when it comes to nutrition. It is high in dietary fiber and vitamin C. It contains more omega-3 per calorie than salmon. It is known to support the immune system and provide anti-inflammatory benefits. Why, then, is cabbage hard to digest for some people? Cabbage contains raffinose; an indigestible sugar. While this sugar passes through the digestive tract, undigested, it can trigger abdominal discomfort, bloating, and gas. The health benefits of cabbage are too good to pass up, so find your personal comfort level and include it in tolerable amounts.
At the top of the cutting board, is one whole, medium head of cabbage, chopped into one inch pieces. I would use somewhere between half this amount, and what is pictured.
After wilting the spinach, I added the cabbage and beef stock. The cabbage does not need to cook completely on the stovetop, but should begin to wilt significantly. This took 8-10 minutes over low heat. At this point, if working in an oven-safe pan, you can add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, parsley, and uncooked white rice. Mix together completely. This pan can then go directly into the oven for baking. My oven safe pan was not quite big enough to handle these ingredients, so I made a transfer to a 9×13 baking dish.
Bake, covered, for 40 min at 350. After baking, remove the cover. If you’d like to add cheese, stir 4 oz. into the mixture and smooth it out again. Sprinkle another 4 oz. atop the mixture and return the pan to the oven for 10 minutes, uncovered. With an entire medium head of cabbage, this easily serves 10-12 people. As you decrease the cabbage, servings will decrease as well.
Enjoy the recipe! Adapt and make it your own.
Unstuffed Cabbage Bake
– Dutch Oven, or skillet and 9×13 pan
– 1 lb. ground beef
– 1 large onion, diced
– 1 sweet pepper, diced
– 3 cloves of garlic, diced
– 3/4 tsp. sea salt
– 1/2 tsp. paprika
– 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
– 1/4 tsp. ground white pepper
– 3 oz. (handful) fresh spinach, chopped
– 1/2 – 1 medium head of green cabbage, chopped into 1 in. cubes
– 8 oz. beef stock
– 1 14.5 oz. can tomato sauce
– 1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
– 1 c. uncooked white rice
– a few stems of fresh parsley, chopped
– 8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a Dutch Oven or large skillet, brown the ground beef with the diced onion, diced sweet pepper, and diced garlic cloves. Season with sea salt, paprika, red pepper flakes, and ground white pepper.
3. Once the beef is browned, add the chopped spinach and cook until wilted.
4. Add the chopped cabbage and beef stock. Cover with a lid and cook 8-10 minutes. Stir halfway though cook time. The cabbage should be slightly wilted when done.
5. If using a Dutch Oven, stir in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, uncooked white rice, and fresh parsley. If not, transfer the cooked ingredients to a 9×13 oven safe pan, and then add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, uncooked white rice, and fresh parsley. Stir well to combine, and then smooth the surface flat.
6. Cover and cook at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes.
7. If you’d like to add cheese, after cooking, remove the dish from the oven. Remove the lid. Stir half the cheese into the mixture and smooth it flat again. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese across the top and bake, uncovered, for another 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Enjoy!
Here on SpringForestFarm.com, Jennifer Taylor Schmidt writes beef recipes for the busy, natural homemaker. It is possible to seek optimal health with limited time and money. Join Jennifer in future posts as she explores the possibilities found in a 1/4 and a 1/2 beeve. You can also find her thoughts and personal health journey on RealFoodRealHealing.com.