I love stuffed cabbage. It’s a Polish staple. I remember my mom boiling cabbage leaves, stuffing them with a meat and rice filling, and wrapping them in to cute squares. (I also remember her cursing a lot because she burned her fingers on the hot cabbage leaves.) It was a lot of work, which is why we didn’t eat it often. My mother-in-law showed me the cheater’s way to have this dish. She wadded the filling into large meatballs, and cut the cabbage into wedges. The result had all the flavors and comfort of stuffed cabbage without all the work.
I’ve tried to make this dish a few times before, with less successful results. One time, the cabbage was underdone and still crunchy. Another time, the meatballs dried out. Still another time, there was not enough sauce. This time, I got it right. The secret is to have large meatballs, and small chunks of cabbage. An entire head of cabbage looks like a lot when it goes into the pan, but it cooks down a lot and won’t seem like too much once the dish is done.
- Mix the ground beef, rice, oregano, and ½ tsp of dill in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Shape into palm-sized meatballs.
- Tear the first 6 leaves off the head of cabbage. Set aside. Cut the remaining head into 2-inch chunks, omitting the stem sections. Spread a little of the condensed tomato soup on the bottom of a 9x13” baking pan. Place the cabbage wedges in the pan. Scatter the meatballs on top of the cabbage. Pour the tomato soup over all the contents of the dish. Sprinkle remaining dill over the dish. Lay the reserved cabbage leaves on top, covering all the meatballs and cabbage wedges. Cover the dish tightly with foil.
- Bake for 1 hour, until the meatballs are cooked through. Remove pan from oven, carefully unwrap the foil and lift off the cabbage leaves. Place meatballs on a plate and cover to keep warm. Replace foil on top of baking pan and return cabbage to the oven. Bake until cabbage leaves are soft, another 30-45 minutes. Remove pan from oven and let cool for 15 minutes. Serve meatballs and cabbage together, spooning sauce over both.