Have you ever tried stuffed cabbage rolls? Let me guess: you didn’t really like them. Well, this recipe will change your relationships with stuffed cabbage rolls forever, because this is the best golubtsi recipe in the world!
Golubtsi (pronounced “goloobtsi” or “golubtsy”) is a traditional Ukrainian dish that is so unbelievably delicious that is a favorite of everyone who tries them. This is a favorite meal of every Ukrainian and Russian family. Traditionally made with white rice and ground beef, it is slightly modified in this recipe to make it healthier and vegetarian (but it’s just as delicious as a meat version 😉 )
I grew up eating golubtsi, as this was one of my dad’s and grandpa’s favorite meals (and every Ukrainian man I know, for that account) so this is a very homey recipe to me, so to speak.
This recipe makes a full pot. What’s nice about golubtsi is that you can make the whole batch ahead and then freeze it in portions using freezer safe tupperware. You honestly can’t tell the difference in taste whether you saute up the fresh or thawed golubtsi. Also, like I mentioned before, this recipe is vegetarian and totally healthy. An entree with a cabbage as a main ingredient? Yes, please! 😀
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 large cabbage
- 8 oz mushrooms
- 1 fist full of fresh thyme
- 1/2 cup brown rice
- 1/2 cup green lentils
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 Tbsp olive oil
- 4 shallots
- 1 cup almond meal (grind almonds in a food processor if you don’t have almond meal)
- 6 oz tomato paste
- 28 oz diced tomatoes
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- pepper to taste
- Bring a large stock pot to boil. Add a pinch of salt.
- Remove a core of the cabbage, cutting in a circle from the bottom. Try to go as deep as you can to remove as much core as possible – this will make the leaves removal process much easier.
- Boil the cabbage in a pot, core down, for 5 min. Flip it over and cook for another 5-6 min. Pull the leaves apart slightly (I use tongs) so they cook more evenly. Remove the leaves as they start to soften. You know they are ready when they turn yellowish in color and sometimes larger leaves can be dull green. Torn leaves can be used to line a baking dish.
- In a medium saucepan bring 3 cups of water to boil. Add 1/2 tsp salt, bay leaves, lentils and rice. Turn heat to low, put a lid on and cook for about 40 min. or until rice and lentils are tender, adding water if needed. Lentils will cook faster than rice but this is okay for our application.
- Saute mushrooms in 2 Tbsp olive oil until tender. Add chopped shallots about 3 min. before mushrooms are done.
- Add the mushroom mixture, almond meal, 2 Tbsp of tomato paste, 1 tsp salt and fresh thyme leaves from about 7 stems into a food processor. Pulse until the mixture gets together but is not pasty.
- Scoop the mixture into the pot with cooked rice and lentils (remove the bay leaves). Add ground pepper and adjust for seasoning.
- Make the tomato sauce: add about 3 cups of good vegetable broth to a medium saucepan and simmer for about 2 min. until the broth starts to thicken. Stir in about 3 Tbsp tomato paste until dissolved. Add 1/4 tsp of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Stir in the diced tomatoes and cook on low for about 2-3 min. Set aside.
- Preheat over to 350 F. Lightly spray a casserole dish with a pan spray.
- Cut a notch at the base of each cabbage leaf (that hard rind in the middle of the leaf that is especially thick at the bottom).
- Line the dish with 3-4 torn cabbage leaves, or enough to cover the bottom and most of the sides. If the leaves hang over the edges, it’s ok.
- Scoop about 2-3 Tbsp of the filling and place at the bottom of the cabbage leaf. Gently fold in the sides and start rolling, tucking in the sides as needed. The amount of the filling will vary based on the size of the leaf.
- Place the rolls in the baking dish, seam side down, on top of the leaves. The rolls can be crowded just not overlapping. If you run out of room, start another baking dish.
- Pour the sauce over the rolls. It should come just right at the sides of the rolls, but they shouldn’t be submerged into the sauce. Give them a good few grinds of black pepper and a pinch of salt. Lat 5-6 springs of fresh thyme across the top.
- Bake, uncovered, for 45-50 min. until the tops are a bit golden with some a little crispy.
- Remove from oven and let set for 5 min. before serving.
Store in lidded container in fridge for up to 5 days or freeze for up to a few months.
Tip: Make rolls ahead one day without making the sauce. Cover the rolls in the casserole dish and refrigerate. The next evening, make the sauce and bake according to the directions above.
Smachnogo! (“Bon appetit!” in Ukraininan 😉 )