Stuffed cabbage (also called cabbage rolls), is a Simchat Torah classic. Read more about the origin of that tradition here.

Many recipes are heavy on the sweetness, and my goal here was to create a version that is more savory, but still flavorful, and with no sugar or honey at all. I did, however, add some raisins and dates to help counteract the acidity of all the tomato, but this recipe is by no means sweet. There's lots of fresh basil, oregano, smoked paprika, and jalapeno in there.

If you're looking for the quick and easy version, skip this one and make these traditional sweet ones instead. The ingredient list is exponentially shorter!

I used brown rice in this version. I like the texture it adds, and the way it stands up well to a long, slow cook, and re-heating, which is often necessary on the long Simchat Torah nights. If you're shorter on time, or prefer the taste, you can definitely use white rice and reduce the cook time.

Cabbage Roll Ingredients

  • 1 medium-sized cabbage
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 2 tbsp. oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 4-5 basil leaves, minced
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 cup short grain brown rice
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • 2 tsp. yellow mustard
  • ½ cup cold water
  • 4 sprigs fresh oregano
  • 20 fresh basil leaves

Cabbage Roll Directions

  1. Freeze the cabbage for 2-3 days. Defrost. As the cabbage defrosts, the leaves will wilt and soften. Carefully peel off one leaf at a time, being careful not to tear the leaves. Submerge the cabbage head in warm water if you're finding it difficult to remove the smaller center leaves. You will need about 12 whole leaves for this amount of filling. Wash the cabbage leaves and check for dirt and insects. Set aside.
  2. In a small frying pan, sauté the onion in the oil until translucent. Add the garlic and salt. Cook 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add the shredded carrot and cook until soft. Mix through the minced basil. Remove mixture from the stove and set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Combine the ground beef, raw rice, salt, pepper, paprika, mustard, and sautéed onion mixture. Mix well with your hands until rice is evenly distributed throughout the mixture. Slowly add the cold water, a couple of tablespoons at a time, mixing it in after each time. The mixture should loosen, but remain cohesive.
  4. Lay out the first cabbage leaf. Place a scoop (about 2 tbsp.) of the meat mixture at the bottom. Fold in the sides and roll up the leaf. (See pictures above for a clearer description). Be careful not to put too much filling, because the rice will expand as it cooks. Roll the cabbage tightly enough that it won't unfold while cooking, but not too tightly or your rice won't cook. Repeat with remaining leaves until all the filling has been used. You should get about 12 cabbage rolls from this amount of filling.
  5. Place 1 cup of sauce (recipe below) on the bottom of a large, deep baking dish. Lay the cabbage rolls, seam-side down, on top of the sauce. Wedge them in tightly so they won't move around while baking. Cover with more sauce, so that pan is full. If you have extra sauce that doesn't fit in the pan just now, set it aside for later (you will need it). Place two sprigs of oregano and 10 of the basil leaves on top.
  6. Cover the pan tightly with foil. Bake at 400°F for 30 minutes. Lower the temperature to 300°F and cook for another 2-3 hours. About half-way through, take the pan out, remove the basil and oregano leaves. Check the sauce level. If it has reduced visibly, top it up with some of the remaining sauce and/or half a cup of water. Place the remaining 2 sprigs of oregano and 10 basil leaves on top, re-wrap with foil, and return to oven.
  7. Before you take the cabbage rolls out, remove one, cut it in half, and make sure the rice is cooked through. If it is, remove the entire tray. If not, return to oven and cook some more. Serve fresh or refrigerate and reheat later. Remove oregano, basil, and the large chunks of carrot and jalapeno before serving.
  8. To reheat, add some water and re-heat in the oven, or transfer to a frying pan, add some water, and reheat over a low gentle flame.

Yields: 12 cabbage rolls

Tomato Sauce Ingredients

  • 1 onion
  • 2 tbsp. oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp. smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • 1 29 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 28 oz. can whole peeled roma tomatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup red wine (sweet or dry)
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 4 dates
  • 3 jalapeno peppers, halved, veins and seeds removed
  • 2 carrots, peeled, halved

Tomato Sauce Directions

  1. In a medium-large pot, cut the onion into quarter rounds and sauté lightly in oil. Add the crushed garlic and cook 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add the tomato paste, smoked paprika, salt, and black pepper, and cook over a low-medium flame for 3-4 minutes.
  2. Add all the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, and then simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  3. Use as directed above.