A steamy, aromatic stuffed cabbage skillet loaded with perfectly seasoned ground beef and rice, tucked into tender cabbage leaves, and topped with a tangy tomato sauce and Grandma’s secret ingredient makes for some pretty serious comfort food in my book.
And that’s exactly what I’m bringing to you today. Everything you need to know about how to bring this incredible dish into your own home.
I grew up calling this dish ‘pigs in the blanket’ or more frequently ‘piggies’. It wasn’t until the last 10 years or so that I realized that when I used those terms people weren’t picturing my Grandmother’s incredibly tasty stuffed cabbage roll dish.
It seems that the term pigs in the blanket more commonly refers to a hot dog wrapped in dough and baked.
So for the sake of this post I will be referring to this dish as a stuffed cabbage skillet. But, I want to be clear that, they will forever be ‘piggies’ to me.
Ingredients Needed To Make A Stuffed Cabbage Skillet
Here’s a list of the ingredients you’re going to need to make a stuffed cabbage skillet. Please note … Grandma had a secret ingredient and that is not on this list. But don’t worry, we’ll talk about it a little later. I promise!
- BUTTER – Farm fresh butter if you’ve got it. Always.
- ONION – A common yellow onion is my preferred choice for this recipe.
- GARLIC – Fresh garlic is recommended. Granulated garlic will work, remember to reduce the amount.
- CRUSHED TOMATOES – A good quality crushed tomato is the way to go here. Be sure they are not already seasoned.
- SALT, PEPPER, AND PARSLEY – Use the best quality spices you have available to you. Particularly with the parsley, as cheap parsley can be bitter.
- BALSAMIC VINEGAR – Balsamic vinegar has the perfect earthy element to it for this recipe. Red or white wine vinegar will also work in this recipe. Although, they do change the flavor of the sauce noticeably, so consider your choice thoughtfully.
- GROUND BEEF – Organic, grass-fed beef is the best way to go when making this dish. The flavor profile is considerbaly superior to commercially produced beef. But, as always, use what’s available to you.
- RICE – Plain white rice is my preferred choice for this recipe. It may be just because that’s how Grandma made them. I would give jasmine rice a try if it was all I had. And, I’m sure brown rice would work too. But, if you’re going to use brown rice, remember that the flavor profile is different. It will change the dish considerably.
- EGG – Farm fresh eggs are always the way to go when possible.
- CABBAGE – Get the best quality cabbage you can. It is one of the main stars of the dish after all. This recipe is great for those who have cabbage stored from their summer gardens and are looking for a way to use it up.
How To Make A Stuffed Cabbage Skillet
I’m not gonna lie this stuffed cabbage skillet dish is definitely a labor of love. Perhaps, that’s why there are so many unstuffed cabbage roll recipes out there on the big ‘ol interweb. They are easier and we as humans tend to lean toward the easy way out.
However, I implore you, to take the time to make this dish. Once you do you’ll never want to make it any other way.
It is an undeniable fact that a dish that has been thoughtfully handmade tastes exponentially better than a convenience meal using the same ingredients. Even if that convenience meal is made from scratch.
Before you can get fully into making the recipe you’ll need to prep the rice and cabbage, as they will need to cool down so you can work with them.
If you can make the rice the day before, do that. Then allow it to cool down and refrigerate it overnight. If not, make it an hour or so before you plan to finish the dish and set it aside to cool.
The cabbage will need to be steamed in a large pot for a short period of time, to make the outer leaves tender enough to work with. Once the leaves are pliable you can remove it from the pot and allow it to cool.
After you’ve prepped the rice and cabbage you are ready to make the sauce.
This is how you make the sauce …
Saute onion, garlic, salt, and pepper in a little butter until the onion is translucent.
Then add crushed tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. Immediately remove from the heat and set aside.
Next, you’ll need to make the filling …
The filling is made by putting ground beef, the cooked rice, finely chopped onion, fresh minced garlic, salt, pepper, parsley, beaten egg, and tomato sauce in a bowl and mixing it all together.
I see bloggers out there saying to mix this together with a spoon. I assure you that if you try to do that, you’ll be in the kitchen cursing all afternoon.
Just stick your darn hands in the bowl and MIX IT UP! It’s the only way to go.
Now it’s time to assemble the ingredients …
Peel 12 leaves from the steamed head of cabbage. Take your time and do your best to remove them without tearing them.
Use a sharp knife to score a v shaped slice in the thickest part of the rib that runs down the center of them.
Then take 1/3 cup of the beef mixture, shape it into a log, place it at the bottom edge of a cabbage leaf, and roll it up. Tuck in the sides of the cabbage leaf, as you go, to make it snug.
Place the assembled cabbage roll, seam side down, in a cast iron dutch oven skillet. Once you have assembled all of the cabbage rolls and placed them in the skillet, pour the sauce evenly over the top.
Next you’ll pour Grandma’s secret ingredient over the top (don’t worry, we’re going to talk about this ingredient in the next section of the post, promise), and bake the cabbage rolls until they are tender and DELICIOUS!
Grandma’s Secret Ingredient
My grandmother made the very best stuffed cabbage rolls in the world. I’m certain of it. And I know that there are at least a few of you, who follow my blog, who have had the privilege of eating her cabbage rolls, because she cooked them for you when you were in grade school.
Grandma was the cook (for many years the only kitchen staff) in a small country school for many years. And her food was beloved by the community.
She was also very involved in the community and cooked for many events throughout the year. Everybody loved Ruthie’s dishes. Stuffed cabbage rolls were one of the favs.
And that’s because she used an ingredient that I’ve never seen in another stuffed cabbage roll recipe. That ingredient is … sauerkraut.
After Grandma made her cabbage rolls and topped them with sauce, she would pour a can of sauerkraut (juice included) over the top.
It really gave them that special tang that could only be found in Ruthies homemade ‘piggies’. And I can’t imagine making them any other way.
For me, whenever I taste stuffed cabbage rolls made by someone else there’s just something missing.
Grandma Didn’t Make This Dish In A Skillet
Now, Grandma never made her stuffed cabbage rolls in a skillet. She used a crock pot every time. She used a crock pot for a lot of things.
I also have used a crock pot many times to make this dish. And while I am not as big a fan of crock pots as my Grandma, I openly admit that this dish is fabulous when prepared in one.
However, I prefer to make mine in a cast iron dutch oven skillet. So, for me, it’s a stuffed cabbage skillet all the way.
Grandma was a pretty flexible woman. And she very subtly modeled the live and let live attitude, that I am such a big proponent of, for me daily.
So … I’m pretty sure she’s alright with my little cast iron skillet twist on her recipe. I’ll bet she’s smiling broadly and mumbling ‘Diane Gail always did have to do things her own way’ under her breath.
Yep Gram, you’re right. I do march to my own drummer. And thank you for supporting that when it felt like the rest of the world was always trying to force me to conform. I love who I became because of your ability to allow me to unfold naturally.
How To Serve A Stuffed Cabbage Skillet
Very honestly, in my opinion, the best way to enjoy this stuffed cabbage skillet is to just put a few of those tender, juicy cabbage rolls in a dish, top them with a little sauce, and dig in with a spoon.
There’s nothing else needed. Nothing else at all. But, perhaps, that’s because this is how I grew up eating them.
Grandma rarely ever made anything to go with them. When she made this dish, she considered her job complete the moment the lid went on the crock pot.
And still, over the years I’ve grown to enjoy having a piece of crusty, crunchy garlic bread to go with my cabbage rolls. So, if I’m in the mood to make a loaf I do. If not, I just dig in.
I suppose you could serve this dish up with a nice side salad, a steamy garden fresh vegetable, or even a little bit of my other Grandma’s farm fresh coleslaw if that is more your style.
But, I’m going to stick to plain old cabbage rolls with a bit of garlic bread, when the mood strikes me, over here. If you don’t mind.
How To Store This Dish
This dish stores extraordinarily well. If you place it in an airtight container and put it in the refrigerator it will stay good for 5-7 days at least.
And, it is a dish that tastes better the second time around. So, you just may find yourself looking forward to serving it a second time the week you make it.
But if you’re not the type who likes to eat the same thing twice in one week, I’ve got some good news for you. This dish freezes like a champ.
Just portion it out in whatever way works best for you and your family, place it in airtight containers or freezer storage bags, and put it in the freezer.
When you take it out of the freezer, allow it to thaw completely and then pop it in the oven to warm up. It really will taste just as it did the first time you served it, actually it’s a bit better.
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A steamy, aromatic stuffed cabbage skillet loaded with perfectly seasoned ground beef and rice, tucked into tender cabbage leaves, and topped with a tangy tomato sauce and Grandma's secret ingredient. This is some serious comfort food!
- FOR THE SAUCE:
- 2 tbls butter, salted
- 1/2 c onion, yellow, medium chop
- 3 garlic cloves, sliced thin
- 28 oz can crushed tomatoes, unseasoned
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tbls balsamic vinegar
- FOR THE FILLING:
- 1 lb ground beef, 90% lean
- 1 c cooked rice
- 1/2 c onion, yellow, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 2 tbls dried parsley
- 1 egg, large, beaten
- 1/2 c tomato sauce
- REMAINING INGREDIENTS:
- 1 head cabbage
- 14.5 oz can sauerkraut, with juice
- Prepare the cooked rice the day before if you are able. Store it in the refrigerator overnight. Otherwise prepare it about an hour before you plan to make the skillet and allow it to cool completely.
- Prepare the cabbage about an hour before you make this recipe. Place the head of cabbage, stem side down, in a large soup pot, with 2 inches of water in the bottom. Bring the water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and place the lid on the pot. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.
- While the cabbage is cooling you can make the sauce.
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the onion, garlic, salt, and pepper. Saute until the onion is translucent.
- Add the crushed tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. Immediately remove from the heat and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly mix the ground beef, rice, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, parsley, egg, and tomato sauce with your hands. Set aside.
- Carefully peel 9 cabbage leaves from the head of cabbage. Do your best to keep them from tearing.
- Place the cupped side of the cabbage leaf down on the counter, and use a sharp knife to score a v shape into the thick part of the rib, toward the bottom of the leaf, that runs down the center.
- Flip the cabbage leaf over.
- Measure out 1/3 cup of beef mixture and shape it into a log form with your hands.
- Place the beef log on the cabbage leaf, at the bottom.
- Roll the leaf up around the beef, folding in the sides as you go.
- Place the cabbage rolls, seam side down, in a cast iron dutch oven skillet.
- Pour the sauce evenly over the cabbage rolls.
- Pour the sauerkraut, including the juice, evenly over the top.
- Put the lid on the skillet and bake for 1 hour or until beef is thoroughly cooked.
- Serve and enjoy!
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 294Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 72mgSodium: 892mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 6gSugar: 14gProtein: 19g
This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 12/25/2022. Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.