Kittencal's Cabbage Rolls With Tomato Sauce

"This is my own recipe that I have made for over 25 years, I have made these for weddings, socials and large get togethers and everyone loves them --- I have two large cabbage listed as you will need extra cabbage leaves to line the bottom and top of the pan to prevent the rolls from over browning which may happen during the long cooking time --- cooked rice will also be fine for this and if you like lots of rice you may increase amount --- make certain that the heads of cabbage are frozen then completely thawed before starting this recipe, this will allow for easy removal of the leaves, allow the frozen cabbage heads thaw at room temperature overnight in bowls --- to save some time I most always remove the cabbage leaves a day ahead and refrigerate in a bowl and you may even prepare the ground beef mixture a day ahead so the following day just mix the sauce roll and cook --- for these cabbage rolls I do not precook the ground beef it will cook thoroughly in the oven --- I have listed the sauerkraut as optional if you are a sauerkraut-lover then add it in I most always do it really adds extra flavor to the cabbage and you may use more than 1/2 cup if desired --- the amounts listed will fill a 13 x 9-inch pan very full or even better so you do not over crowd the rolls a larger pan may be used or use two pans and freeze one for another meal, just thaw overnight in the fridge then allow to sit at room temperature for about 2 hours then cook as stated --- if you like lots of sauce then you may double amounts but I would suggest to make it in a larger baking pan if you are doubling the sauce."
photo by Chef Sarita in Aust photo by Chef Sarita in Aust
photo by Chef Sarita in Aust
photo by Chef Sarita in Aust photo by Chef Sarita in Aust
photo by Chef Sarita in Aust photo by Chef Sarita in Aust
photo by FrenchBunny photo by FrenchBunny
photo by FrenchBunny photo by FrenchBunny
Ready In:
3hrs 40mins
16-20 cabbage rolls




  • Set oven to 350 degrees F (second-lowest oven rack).
  • Grease a 13 x 9-inch baking pan or use a larger pan (for easier clean up I strongly advise to use a disposable heavy foil pan).
  • Make certain that the cabbage heads are completely thawed before using for this (to do this remove the heads of cabbage from freezer and place in a bowl then thaw at room temperature overnight).
  • Using a small sharp knife carefully remove the hard core/stem from the center of the head, then remove the leaves from the cabbage (you may need to keep slicing off some middle part to remove the leaves easier).
  • To speed up cooking time you may want to cook the leaves in boiling salted water for about 8-10 minutes this will give the cabbage rolls a head start and reduce cooking time slightly.
  • Using your hands gently squeeze out 2 to 3 leaves at a time to remove excess water, then place the leaves in a large bowl; set aside.
  • FOR MEAT FILLING; using clean hands mix all ingredients together for the meat filling in large bowl until thoroughly combined.
  • FOR SAUCE; in another bowl combine all sauce ingredients together until blended (adjust the salt and pepper to taste).
  • Line the bottom of the pan with cabbage leaves (due to the long cooking time this will protect the rolls from over browning/burning in the pan while cooking, you may also place leaves on top of the sauce then cover with foil but that is optional).
  • Using a large spoon or a ladle drizzle half of the sauce over the leaves then spread out to cover the leaves (does not have to cover the leaves completely).
  • Stuff the cabbage leaves tightly but carefully with the meat mixture (I use about 1/3-cup for larger leaves).
  • Roll up tightly and place the rolls in a single layer on top of the cabbage leaves and sauce in the baking dish.
  • Drizzle the remaining sauce over the rolls (using a butter knife separate the rolls slightly to insure the sauce settles between and around each roll).
  • Sprinkle about 1/2 cup or a little more sauerkraut over the sauce (if using).
  • At this point you may cover the rolls with more leaves if desired (this is optional but good to do).
  • Cover tightly with foil.
  • IMPORTANT; if you are using a 13 x 9-inch dish it will be very full so place on a large jelly-roll pan to catch any spills.
  • Cook at 350 degrees F (oven rack set to second-lowest position) for about 2-1/2 to 3 hours or until the cabbage is very tender, the cooking time will vary depending on how thick the cabbage leaves are and if you have pre-boiled the leaves firstly, I usually check after about 2 hours).

Questions & Replies

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  1. Chef Sarita in Aust
    WOW! This was very good. I wish I could give it more stars. Yes, the recipe is a little labored but if a few steps are taken ahead of time, this could definitely become a weekday meal. I am a butter fanatic so I did add a couple of tablespoons of butter to the sauce. As always, the steps were very precise (down to the point of putting a jelly roll pan to catch oven spills) and easy to follow. I can always depend on a Kittencal recipe! Thank you so much!!
  2. Beth James
    KITTEN YOU ARE THE BEST!!!!! When my Slovak grandmother passed away she took all her recipes with her. She had alzheimers and not one person in my family sat her down and got her recipes before she couldn't remember them anymore. We miss her terribly and this is her recipe!!! I was so excited to get this recipe and see how you made it, that's EXACTLY how grandma did it! Thanks so much!!! My family will be so excited this Christmas when I show up at dinner!! We will pass this recipe on to my children on day. Thank You again!!! I always say I have NEVER made any of your recipes that I didn't gobble down and have everyone asking me for the recipe. You are the best!!!
  3. FrenchBunny
    Another winner of a recipe Kitten. We so enjoyed these, they were absolutely delicious. I used a large savoy cabbage, just my preference. I only used the one head of cabbage and cut the meat mixture in half and it had made 12 rolls with plenty of cabbage left over for the bottom and top of the rolls. I did make the whole amount of sauce but I think next time I would double up on the sauce, only because I love lots of sauce and after the cook time it didn't leave much sauce. But the flavor of this sauce was so tasty, I did add a little bit of dry mustard for a bit of zing instead of the cayenne, and it was great. My rolls were cooked in 2 hours time, I am sure that is because of the type of cabbage. I don't think my teenage DD has figured that cabbage is a vegetable yet cause she licked her plate clean. I like it when she does this. Kitten thanks for your wonderful recipe, I can see why you have used this one for so many years. It is fantastic and I too will use it from now on.
  4. Abby Girl
    Wonderful recipe that I did in the crockpot! I did make some changes though. I cut the recipe in half as I am only cooking for 3. I used Italian sausage, fresh garlic and brown rice in the meat filling.... added enough tomato sauce just to combine the ingredients. Loved the parmesan cheese...that was a nice touch. In the sauce, I used tomato sauce, 1 tsp sugar, salt and pepper. I layered the bottom of my crockpot with cabbage leaves, layed the rolls and sauce then added the sauerkraut. I topped it with more cabbage leave. I cooked this on low for 6 hours. My only comment regarding these is to watch the salt content...this was borderline salty. Next time, I might try adding some Marinara Sauce to the sauce for a different taste. Overall an excellent that I would do again! Thanks, Kitten
  5. kittycatmom
    Delicious! This was the first time I was brave enough to make my own cabbage rolls and I am so glad to have Kitten's recipe! The directions are precise and make the process go smoothly. The flavor is exactly as I remember from childhood -- yes, my Grammie made them too! Thank you Kitt! This is as always a winner that I will be comfortable making again and again!!! Made for KK's Recipe Tag



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