Happy Friday, kiddos!
It may be March but it is still blustery outside! On days like this, I love nothing more than curling up with a warm, comfort food-filled dinner at the end of a long day of commuting, working, and commuting.
And nothing is more comforting than my dad’s absolute favorite childhood classic… Stuffed Cabbage.
What’s not to love? Tender cabbage leaves stuffed with a delicious meat-and-rice mixture and then smothered in a hearty tomato sauce… it’s definitely comfort food to the max!
But as you know, I am a sucker for recipes that put a spin on the classics. And when my mom found a recipe that created a lighter, quicker recipe for stuffed cabbage, I knew that we found our new weeknight staple. With a few adaptations on the original recipe, we came up with a great recipe for Unstuffed Stuffed Cabbage – a perfect comfort food dinner that has all the flavor of the classic dish that can be on the table in less than an hour!
This is how you make it.
It starts with the meat sauce.
In a large, deep-sided skillet set over medium heat, add in some olive oil. When the oil is hot, add in a chopped onion and cook until the onion becomes soft, translucent, and beginning to turn golden brown. Toss in some minced garlic (because what is meat sauce without garlic). Continue to cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.
When the onion and garlic are golden brown and fragrant, add in one pound of ground beef to the skillet. Break the ground beef with a spoon and allow it to brown completely. Quick note: this is 85/15 ground beef! Yes, it is has a higher percentage of fat, but I deal with that problem in a minute…
When the beef is completely brown, drain the beef-onion mixture in a colander – this removes the excess grease (which means less calories and fat in the final dish… yay!). Return the beef mixture back to the skillet, put the skillet back over medium heat, and add in the other sauce ingredients.
Like one large can of diced tomatoes. Juice and all, please!
And a can of tomato sauce… the standard canned stuff, nothing fancy.
Add a half cup of water to add a bit more moisture, season the sauce with salt and pepper, and then bring to a boil.
While the sauce is heating, you can prep the cabbage!
Grab a medium-sized head of green cabbage and cut it into quarters. Cut out the core (the fibrous bit in the middle of the cabbage head) of the cabbage.
And then cut the cabbage into bite-sized pieces. The original recipe called for chopped cabbage, which we felt would break down too much during cooking. The larger pieces hold up better in the final dish and look so much prettier!
Then toss the cabbage into meat sauce and gently stir everything together. Be careful – the skillet will be VERY full! (please don’t be like me and dump some of the unstuffed stuffed cabbage onto your stove and kitchen floor)
Note: I only ended up using just over half the head of cabbage… that was all that could fit into my skillet! If you can fit more (or if you just want to add more cabbage – it’s a great way to get in extra veggies), go for it!
Now back to Unstuffed Cabbage Land…
The final addition to the skillet is some regular ‘ole white rice.
(please excuse the super blurry photo… I was getting hungry!)
Traditional stuffed cabbage has rice in the filling and the addition of rice to this dish turns it into a one-pot supper… AKA a weeknight lifesaver. White rice works well here (instead of longer cooking brown rice) because it finishes cooking with the cabbage.
All that’s left is to let the whole skillet of wonderfulness simmer for about 20-30 minutes until the cabbage is tender and the rice is cooked completely.
And then it’s time to dish it all up and dig in!
This has truly become one of our family’s favorite weeknight meals. It’s healthy, super quick to make, and delicious! A perfect end to a crazy busy late winter day and the perfect homage to my dad’s childhood favorite.
So, kiddos, what’s your favorite childhood food memory? Let me know!
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pound ground beef, 85-15
- 1-28oz can diced tomatoes
- 1-8oz can tomato sauce
- ½ cup water
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ½-1 medium-sized head of cabbage, cut into bit sized pieces (I personally only use half a head)
- 1 cup white rice
- In a large deep-sided skillet with a lid (no lid? use a cookie sheet!) set over medium heat, add in the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add in the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes until soft and golden brown. Add in the garlic and cook for an additional 1 minute until the garlic is fragrant.
- Add the ground beef to the onion mixture and brown completely - about 3-4 minutes. When the meat is brown and cooked through, drain the meat mixture in a colander to remove the excess fat. Return the drained meat mixture back to the skillet and set the skillet over medium heat.
- Add in the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, salt and pepper. Stir and bring to a boil.
- Carefully add in the cabbage and gently stir the cabbage into the meat mixture. Add in the rice and give a final stir. Turn the heat down to a simmer, place the lid on the skillet, and cook for 20-30 minutes until the cabbage is tender and the rice is cooked through.
- Serve immediately!