My easy Russian cabbage rolls recipe for golubtsi (голубцы) makes a more petite version of my baboushka’s bigger cabbage rolls – one cabbage roll was a meal in itself! – and as I cook the savoury pork, beef, carrot, and rice filling before stuffing the cabbage rolls, they bake much faster than the larger golubtsy filled with a raw meat mixture, yet they’re equally delicious.
I adore my baboushka’s Russian cabbage rolls recipe that makes golubtsi (голубцы) – cabbage rolls stuffed with a savoury minced pork, beef, carrot, and rice filling, and cloaked in a rich homemade tomato sauce.
They were a feature of countless family meals – along with baba’s traditional Russian pelmeni and vareniki, beet potato salad recipe, Russian garden salad, borscht, and more – and not only for Russian Christmas and Easter, but for our family’s regular weekend lunches that rolled into dinner.
But baba’s cabbage rolls were a meal in themselves. They were so filling that as a child I would eat one and then I’d struggle to fit anything else in, my eyes darting around the table at the abundance of food and all the other Russian dishes that I disappointingly couldn’t fit in.
Of course, I would squeeze a bit of everything in, because that’s what we did at family meals. I just wished they’d been smaller, so I’ve made a couple of tweaks.
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Russian Cabbage Rolls Recipe for a Petite Version of Baboushka’s Golubtsi
My baboushka’s Russian cabbage rolls recipe for golubtsi has long been a favourite recipe of mine that I make every Russian Christmas and Easter and during the colder months of the year, no matter where we are. This is a filling comforting dish that you can’t eat every day.
Yet baba’s Russian cabbage rolls made regular appearances during family meals and were one of an array of hearty, comforting Russian dishes that filled every space of the big round oak table that my mother still has at her home.
So why would I tweak baboushka’s Russian cabbage rolls recipe then? Mainly because baba made big cabbage rolls that were so huge I could barely squeeze any more food in.
Yet there were always so many delicious dishes on the table I wanted to do what my parents, grandparents and uncles did and take my time to take a little of every dish that I could savour over the course of the many hours that our memorable family meals took.
Tips to Making this Russian Cabbage Rolls Recipe
I’ve made two tweaks to my baboushka’s Russian cabbage rolls recipe for golubtsy, the first of which is minor – all I’ve done is reduce the size of baba’s cabbage rolls so that they are rather petite, meaning you can eat more than one.
Secondly, I’ve cooked the savoury filling for the golubtsi before rolling it in the cabbage, and that’s because, as much as I adore baba’s recipe (which requires that the meat filling mixture be raw), this allows you to speed up the process (which home cooks continually complain is too long).
We think the two tweaks results in cabbage rolls that retain the essence and flavour of baboushka’s golubtsi but are a little easier and faster to make.
Russian Cabbage Rolls Recipe for Golubtsi (голубцы)
- 1 cup jasmine rice - steamed
- 1 small - 800g cabbage head
- 4 tbsp neutral cooking oil
- 145 g onion - finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic - finely chopped
- 1 200 g carrot - grated
- 125 g minced pork
- 125 g minced beef
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 400 g tin of tomato sauce
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tbsp fresh dill
- In a rice cooker, steam one cup of jasmine rice.
- Half-fill a large stock pot with water, add a pinch of salt, and bring it to boil.
- Core the cabbage head and carefully pull the leaves apart, taking care so that they do not break, then put them in the boiling water until they soften and yellow. Remove with tongs, shake off any excess water, and place each piece separately on a clean tea-towel to cool.
- In a fry pan or skillet, sauté the finely chopped onion in a tablespoon of cooking oil until soft and fragrant, add the chopped garlic and continue frying until the onion is translucent. Remove half the onion and garlic and set aside in a dish.
- Add another tablespoon of oil and the grated carrot, combining the ingredients, and fry for a few minutes.
- Add the minced pork, minced beef, cup of steamed rice, a teaspoon each of salt, black pepper and paprika, and combine well, adding another 1-2 tablespoons of oil if needed (so the mixture won’t dry out in the oven), and fry until just-cooked. Taste, add any additional seasoning if needed, then remove from heat, and set aside.
- In a fry pan, add the fried onion and garlic that you set, along with the tin of crushed tomatoes, bay leaves, and a teaspoon each of salt and sugar, and reduce on high heat until thickened.
- Spread a layer of the tomato sauce on the bottom of a ceramic baking dish.
- Preheat the oven to 220˚C.
- Carefully spread one cabbage leaf out on a cutting board, place a generous tablespoon of the savoury meat mixture into the centre of the leaf, tuck in the sides and roll it up, and place it into a corner of the ceramic baking dish. Note: as the cabbage leaves will be in various sizes, smaller leaves may not cover the mixture completely so you may need to use two small leaves.
- Repeat until you’ve filled the ceramic dish. Note: our 23cm-long dish held 10 cabbage rolls in 2 rows. (If you have any meat mixture and cabbage leaves left, you could continue making rolls. If you have the mixture but no leaves, it’s delicious on its own or you could use the mixture in an omelette.)
- Spread the rest of the tomato sauce on top of the cabbage rolls, making sure to fill the cracks between the cabbage rolls, and between the rolls and dish. Pop the two bay leaves on top and cover with tomato sauce so they don’t burn. Bake for 15 minutes or until cooked. It should not take longer than this as the mixture was already cooked.
- Sprinkle with fresh dill and serve at the centre of the table with a dish of sour cream and a salad. If plating individually, plop a dollop of sour cream on top and sprinkle with dill.
Do let us know if you make my baboushka’s Russian cabbage rolls recipe in the comments below, by email or on social media as we’d love to know how they turn out for you. And please do rate our recipe if you wouldn’t mind, it only takes a minute.