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When I started thinking about what makes a cabbage roll great, and asking friends the same question, the answer was almost unanimous: really good cabbage rolls have a slightly sour flavour that separates them from the American-50s version. It comes from the glorious thing that is sauerkraut, or fermented cabbage. If you can find whole sour cabbage, that is the best thing, but if not (I couldn’t), a smattering of the good stuff on top will trick your palate into thinking it’s the real deal.
By / Photography By Claire Livia Lassam | February 01, 2014


Preheat oven to 300°F.

In the bottom of a large casserole dish with a lid, mix together the tomatoes and water.

If using raw cabbage, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Core the cabbage and blanch for about 5 minutes. Strain and pull the leaves off the cabbage gently, trying not to rip them. When cool, use a knife or scissors to cut out the thick stems.

In a medium pan over medium heat, sauté the onions in the olive oil. When they are translucent and soft, add the garlic. Salt generously.

In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly mix together the pork, beef, rice, paprika, and the sautéed onion mixture. Season with salt and pepper.

Put ½ cup of the raw meat mixture in the centre of a cabbage leaf. Fold the leaf around itself, making a little bundle and tucking the ends inside the bundle. Place on top of the tomato purée in the casserole dish.

Repeat with the remaining cabbage leaves, stuffing and rolling until the pot is full. You can also freeze them at this stage.

When they are all in the tomato liquid, sprinkle the sauerkraut over top. Put a lid on the pot, and cook for 2 hours.

Serve with sour cream, and enjoy while hot!

Editor's Note: *Some recipes suggest first cooking the rice. Others say that with sufficient liquid, a covered pot, and a long cooking time, the rice cooks beautifully in the oven along with the meat, resulting in a desirable texture. By all means cook it first if you don’t mind the extra step, but in this recipe it isn’t necessary.

**We’ve seen the whole head sour cabbages at several locations along Commercial Drive in Vancouver


  • 1 lb (450g) ground pork
  • 1 lb (450g) ground beef
  • ¾ cup (160g) arborio rice*
  • 2 tsp (10mL) smoked paprika
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 Tbsp (45mL) olive oil
  • 3 cups (750mL) puréed tomatoes
  • 3 cups (750mL) water
  • 1 head of whole sour cabbage,** or 1 head of raw cabbage, leaves carefully removed one by one
  • 1½ cups (375mL) sauerkraut (optional)
  • salt and pepper
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