When I was growing up, Russian Cabbage Rolls – Golubtsi (Голубцы) were one of my favourite meals. Ground meat mixed with onions, rice, carrots and spices, rolled up in cabbage leaves then cooked in a tomato sauce. Sometimes mum would make a tray and pop it into the freezer, then pull it out and cook a quick tasty meal.
Golubtsi is how you say Cabbage Rolls in Russian. Traditional Golubtsi take time to make, but there is a quicker version called Lazy Cabbage Rolls, if you’re in a hurry. I find it tastes the same, but takes so much quicker to make. I love both versions, my kids love this original recipe. Check out the quick, one pot wonder version here.
Cabbage Rolls are a classic Eastern European meal. Well, not usually made with layers of bacon, I added that goodness into my recipe. In Poland, they’re called golabki, in Ukraine they’re called holubtsi, Serbs and Croats call them sarma, Hungarians call them töltött káposzta and even the Swedes call them kåldolmar, The list goes on, as its very popular across many cultures.
Everyone can help making Russian Cabbage Rolls – Golubtsi Layered with Bacon, even the kids, as it’s not hard to roll cabbage and meat. They are delicious, economical and can feed an army of people. What’s not to love about this dish!
I’m not a big pork eater (except for bacon which isn’t really pork, right?) Many people use pork for the filling, but I use ground beef, mixed with fried onions and carrots and cooked rice, wrapped inside individual cabbage leaves. My mum always used a baking tray, or lasagna tray to make her cabbage rolls, but I use a 8 Quart Martha Stewart Cast Iron Round Casserole which works perfectly (and feeds more people).
I layer the cabbage leaves tightly in the casserole in a single layer, then cover it with a row of bacon, then repeat. I can usually get 3 levels of cabbage rolls and bacon, then pour a tomato sauce (Podlivka) over it all and let it simmer!
I also think my Podliva is pretty special. Some people use plain water with some tomato paste, others use beef stock, or add water with a tin of tomatoes. While that can work, I find it’s more flavourful, and nutritious to use passata. Passata is simply pure uncooked tomatoes that have their skins and seeds removed. It’s not a cooked tomato puree. Looks the same, but it’s not. I find this is the secret to a delicious and flavourful golubtsi. It’s in the sauce!!!!
Russian Cabbage Rolls – Golubtsi Layered with Bacon will be the best cabbage rolls you have ever had and worth the effort! Enjoy with a generous dollop of sour cream and fresh dill for garnish. Bon Appetit! Приятного аппетита!
Golubsti - Cabbage Rolls with Bacon (Голубцы)
- 1 large cabbage - to fit inside a stock pot
- 1 kg extra lean ground beef
- 2 cups uncooked medium grain rice - cooked per package instructions
- 4 large carrots grated
- 2 large onions finely chopped
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 tsp Olive Oil
- 750 grams back bacon
- Ingredients For the sauce Podliva
- 2 bottles of 700 grams Mutti Passata*
- 1 cup sour cream
- 3 tbs Vegeta chicken stock powder
- 2 grated carrots
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 5 cloves garlic crushed
- handful fresh chopped dill to taste
- 2 bay leaves
- 10 peppercorns
- 2-3 tablespoons of Maggi seasoning to taste optional
- finely chopped cabbage leaf leftovers
Rinse the rice, and cook according to instructions, and allow to cool.
Cut out the core from the cabbage and remove the outer leaves and set aside. Fully submerge into salted water (half tsp salt) in a large stock pot, core side down at first, then after 5 minutes rotate. This will allow the water to fill through the core between the leaves. Bring it to a boil, and after 6-7 minutes, start to pull off the leaves as they soften on a plate to cool. You want the leaves soft enough to bend, but don't overcook, otherwise they will become mushy.
The centre pieces of the cabbage are too small to use. Finely chop them and any excess cabbage and reserve for the Podliva sauce.
In a frying pan, heat olive oil and sauté 2 onions until caramelized then add 4 grated carrots for approx. 7 minutes until tender.
In a large bowl, mix together ground beef, cooked rice, sautéed carrots and onions, 2 eggs, salt and pepper and mix well. You can use a kitchen aid mixer, but I prefer to use my hands.
With the large cabbage leaves, cut around the thick stems, cutting the leaf in half, ending up with 2 leaves. Finely chop the stems to add to the Podliva sauce.
Place 2 Tbs of meat mixture to one side of a large cabbage leaf and roll up the cabbage, tucking the insides as you go, wrapping as you would a burrito. As the leaves get smaller, place the meat mixture over the stem, tucking in loose ends with your finger. Your first few might look a bit funny, but it will get easier as you go.
Take the outer leaves of cabbage that you set aside in step 2, and layer in the bottom of the casserole. Tightly place the cabbage rolls side by side until you completely fill the bottom layer of the pot. Place a layer of back bacon as a second layer, covering the cabbage rolls. Continue to roll cabbage rolls to fill the second layer of the casserole, followed by another layer of bacon. Repeat levels until pot is full, I can usually get 3 levels in the casserole.
In a large stock pot, add 1 Tbs of olive oil over medium heat and sauté the remaining onion, garlic and carrots until tender. Add the 2 bottles of Passata, bay leaves, chopped cabbage leaf leftovers, peppercorns, Vegeta chicken stock powder and bring to a boil and take off heat. Add the sour cream and chopped dill and mix through the tomato sauce, creating a creamy rose sauce. Add Maggi (optional) Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Pour the Podliva sauce over the cabbage rolls and bacon until fully covered. Bring it to a light boil, then cover and cook for approx. 40 minutes until the meat is throughly cooked.
Serve with sour cream, garnish with dill and enjoy!