While vacationing in Rhode Island recently, Mary Jane from Lebanon noticed a recipe in “Newport This Week” and passed it along to me.  She thought this quicker version of a time consuming classic had the potential to be delicious, but had not yet made it.

The simple preparation of this seasonal dinner appealed to me for several reasons.  First, there is no need to sauté the meat or onions before baking.  Moreover, the recipe delivers protein, veggies, and grains all in one dish.  Also, part or all of the meal may be prepped in advance.  But I had my doubts…

As I assembled this meal for the first time—for company, no less–it occurred to me that it might be a flop.  Few recipes incorporate a whole head of cabbage, and I wasn’t exactly cooking for a crowd of professed cabbage lovers.  I took solace in the fact that this group had been subjected to more than one “experiment,” and yet they were back!

Since I am sharing the recipe in this space, you probably concluded that the dish received unanimous thumbs up.  I just made it again, tweaking the recipe somewhat but staying true to the original.

As an added bonus, the leftovers of this meal are every bit as delicious as the first round, maybe more so.  Upon sitting overnight, the rice absorbs the light broth, and the flavors meld beautifully.

So while the recipe does make a large quantity and could certainly be cut in half, don’t hesitate to make the whole amount and enjoy it on another night—or two if you’re lucky!

Unstuffed Cabbage

Yield: 8-10 servings

Unstuffed Cabbage

This is an uncomplicated casserole version of stuffed cabbage. Once cooked, there will be a flavorful broth, perfect for serving over mashed potatoes or in a bowl with some crusty bread to sop up the sauce. Upon sitting overnight, the rice will absorb much of the broth, and the dish will taste delicious in a whole new way.

For added ease, prepare the rice up to a day or two in advance and store in the refrigerator until ready to assemble. For those who may not be fond of cabbage, this dish may be a surprise!

  • 1 head green cabbage (2 ½ – 3 pounds maximum; cored and chopped into bite size pieces)
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound sausage, removed from casings (I use sweet turkey sausage; use your favorite)
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup parsley, chopped
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3 cups cooked rice (I use brown; see notes)
  • ½ cup beef broth
  • 1 15-ounce can tomato puree or sauce
  • 1 ¼ cups sour cream (see notes)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a casserole dish with at least a 3-quart capacity. A Dutch oven or wide, ovenproof pot would work well, too. (I have also used a 9×13 Pyrex dish. In this case, lightly grease a piece of foil prior to covering.)
  2. In a large bowl, combine the beef, sausage, onion, rice, parsley, eggs, 1 teaspoon of salt and the pepper. (If you prepared the rice with no salt, add the additional ½ teaspoon of salt now.) To prevent the meat from becoming tough, avoid over mixing.
  3. Line the bottom of the casserole with half of the chopped cabbage. Sprinkle half of the meat mixture over the cabbage. Top with the remaining cabbage, followed by the rest of the meat mixture.
  4. Combine the tomato sauce and the beef broth. Pour the tomato mixture over the meat and cabbage. Place the lid on top of the casserole dish and bake for one hour. After an hour, remove from the oven, and spread the sour cream over the top. Return to the oven and bake, uncovered, for additional 25-30 minutes. Allow to rest 5-10 minutes before serving.

Notes

One cup uncooked rice yields approximately three cups cooked. My favorite method of preparation is to add the rice, ½ teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon olive oil to 1¾ cups boiling water. Cover the pot, reduce heat to a low simmer, and cook until the liquid is just absorbed, 35-40 minutes for brown rice or 15-20 minutes for white rice. Remove from the heat, fluff with a fork, and allow to sit, uncovered, for 5 minutes to dry out slightly. Use immediately or cool and refrigerate for later use.

The original recipe called for 1¾ cups of sour cream, which I thought was a bit too much. I have made this with as little as 1 cup, which will absolutely suffice if you have purchased an 8-ounce container of sour cream.

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