Italian Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

4.69 from 29 votes
2 hours
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Italian Stuffed Cabbage Rolls are a kicked-up twist on a classic East European favorite!  This hearty, comforting meal will put a smile on everyone’s face and it’s sure to become a new favorite! On the side, everyone will love this baked beans recipe!

Stuffed cabbage of any variety definitely puts a smile on my face!  It’s one of my favorite hearty, comforting meals that goes back to my Polish roots in the form of Golumpki.

Sadly, I don’t remember my mother ever making stuffed cabbage yet my mother could pull off Polish cooking like a champ.  However, I do remember my oldest sister making it and when eating stuffed cabbage rolls, I thought I had entered nirvana!

Stuffed cabbage rolls are something I crave and have to make at least once a year.  This year, I decided to make a spicy, Italian-style version to share with you!  Check out my highly-rated post for Spicy Asian Pork Cabbage Rolls from two years ago!

For my Italian Stuffed Cabbage Rolls, a combination of spicy Italian sausage, ground beef, rice, cheese and onion fill cabbage leaves that are then blanketed in a spicy tomato sauce and baked.

The inspiration for the spicy tomato sauce is a phenomenal Calabrian Hot Chili Paste (Affiliate Link) one of my customers introduced me to!  Oh, the flavor!

Spicy Italian Stuffed Cabbage - Straight-on shot of baked dish with white serving spoon

How to make Italian Stuffed Cabbage Rolls:

  • First, you’ll need to cook a whole head of cabbage to grab 12 of the leaves.  Make sure the head is nice and big!
  • Then, combine the filling ingredients.  Soften some onion and mix it together in a large bowl with the meat and rice.
  • So that you don’t have to spread all the cabbage leaves out and try to divide the filling out evenly among them all, simply cut the filling into quarters in the bowl…
Overhead shot of meat filling in stainless steel bowl divided into four sections
  • Then cut the quarters into thirds!  Voila!  12 even portions!  This works well when stuffing bell peppers, too!
Overhead shot of meat filling in stainless steel bowl divided into 12 sections
  • Then, start filling and rolling the cabbage leaves.  Cut a “V” at the bottom, removing the tough stem.
  • Place the filling at the top of the “V.”
Spicy Italian Stuffed Cabbage - Overhead shot of 12 cabbage leaves on baking sheet with meat filling on one of them
  • Place the sides of the cabbage leaf over the filling….
Spicy Italian Stuffed Cabbage - Overhead shot of cabbage leaves with one in the process of being folded and rolled
  • Then, simply roll it up!
Spicy Italian Stuffed Cabbage - Overhead shot of cabbage leaves on baking sheet with one fully rolled
  • Place in a prepared baking dish….
Spicy Italian Stuffed Cabbage - Overhead shot of all the cabbage rolled and placed in white baking dish
  • Top with the sauce you mixed up in a skillet (to save a bowl) after softening some onions….
Spicy Italian Stuffed Cabbage - Overhead shot of sauced stuffed cabbage ready to bake
  • Bake….
Spicy Italian Stuffed Cabbage - Overhead shot of stuffed cabbage with pan on an angle sprinkled with parsley with blue-green towel on blue-green background
  • And friends!  Spicy Italian Stuffed Cabbage Rolls!
Spicy Italian Stuffed Cabbage - Close-up angled shot of baked cabbage rolls in white baking dish

Please don’t tell my Polish relatives I’ve gone Italian with the cabbage rolls!  But it could quite possibly be my favorite stuffed cabbage roll recipe ever!

Spicy Italian Stuffed Cabbage - Two of the cabbage rolls in white bowl with one cut in half to expose the inside
Spicy Italian Stuffed Cabbage - Close-up shot of cabbage rolls with one cut in half to expose filling

Serve with:

For more great stuffed vegetable recipes, you’ll also love:

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Italian Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

4.69 from 29 votes

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By: Carol | From A Chef’s Kitchen
Italian Stuffed Cabbage Rolls are a kicked-up twist on a classic East European favorite! This hearty, comforting meal will put a smile on everyone’s face and it’s sure to become a new favorite! 
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time 2 hours
Course Beef
Cuisine Italian
Servings 6 -8
Calories 630 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • Cooking spray - or oil for baking pan
  • Salt
  • 1 large head green cabbage - 2 1/2 to 3 pounds

Filling

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion - finely chopped (approximately 1 heaping cup)
  • 1 pound hot Italian sausage - casings removed
  • 3/4 pound ground chuck
  • 3/4 cup converted white rice - (parboiled rice)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper - to taste

Sauce

  • 1 can (28-ounce) crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup water - to rinse out the crushed tomatoes can
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Calabrian hot pepper paste - or 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 cloves garlic - minced
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper - to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley - for garnish

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 13 x 9-inch baking dish by spraying with cooking spray or lightly brushing with oil.

Prep the Cabbage

  • In a large soup pot, heat 4 quarts of generously salted water to boiling over high heat.
  • Carefully place the cabbage head in the water. Cook for 10 minutes.
  • Transfer cabbage to a colander. When cool enough to handle, peel off 12 outer leaves.

Cook the Rice

  • Add the uncooked white rice using the same water from blanching the cabbage leaves. Bring back to a boil and cook for 6-7 minutes or until the rice is cooked al dente (to the tooth). (You should be able to bite down on a rice kernel, but there should be resistance. You don't want it cooked entirely or too soft). Drain the rice in a sieve and rinse under cold tap water to cool. Drain again. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside.
  • Without taking too much out, cut the thick ribs from the base of the leaves in an upside-down V-shape so you have 2 "flaps" and can fold them up easily.

Filling

  • Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, reduce heat to medium-low and cook 3-4 minutes just to soften. Remove from heat. Transfer half the onion to a large mixing bowl.
  • To the onion in the bowl, add Italian sausage, ground chuck, rice, Parmesan cheese, water, chopped parsley, 1 teaspoon salt and black pepper.
  • Divide the filling into 12 even portions.
  • Place even amounts of the filling in the center of each cabbage leaf. Starting at the bottom of the leaf, fold the "flaps" over the filling, then fold in the sides and roll up. Place seam side down in the prepared baking dish and repeat with remaining cabbage leaves and filling.

Sauce

  • To the onions in the skillet (save a bowl) add crushed tomatoes, water used to rinse out the can, tomato paste, hot pepper paste, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt and black pepper to taste. Stir together then pour over the filled cabbage leaves.
  • Cover securely. Bake until cooked through in the center to 165 degrees, approximately 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  • Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and serve.

Notes

MAKE AHEAD:  Can be assembled 12 hours in advance with fresh ground beef.  (You don’t want to assemble too far in advance because of the ground beef.)  Refrigerate until needed.  Let sit at room temperature while the oven preheats.  Bake as directed.
FREEZER-FRIENDLY:  Bake first, cool and freeze in airtight containers in the quantity desired.  Thaw in the refrigerator.  Reheat in the oven at 350 degrees until heated through.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 | Calories: 630kcal | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 42g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 20g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 103mg | Sodium: 867mg | Potassium: 840mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 683IU | Vitamin C: 87mg | Calcium: 232mg | Iron: 4mg

These are estimated values generated from a nutritional database using unbranded products. Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.

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13 Comments

    1. Hi, Scott, Thanks so much for your question. I think you’re going to be better off cooking the rice, but not to the point of being entirely done. I updated the recipe to make it similar to my Polish Cabbage Rolls, where the rice is cooked for 6-7 minutes to an “al dente” stage. There should still be some resistance. I’ve found different brands of rice can cook up differently and you don’t want crunchy rice. Thanks again and hope you enjoy! Let me know how it goes.

  1. 5 stars
    This is a new twist on the stuffed cabbage. Very tasty. We’ve made it at least 3 times. We love it.

  2. Made this vegan using beyond sausage and cashew based Parmesan. Its in the fridge to be cooked tomorrow but I think its going to be quite good!!

      1. Was a huge hit for Christmas Eve dinner! Even the vegan doubters raved over this recipe.

  3. I made this today. Sorry but I think it has far to much tomato for my taste and the excess liquid resulted in the rolls being loose. However I will make something like this again but adjust for my taste.