Unstuffed Cabbage Meatballs

The cool fall temperatures pull me into my kitchen to leisurely prepare hearty stews loaded with tender beef, baby carrots and red potatoes, big pots of thick and creamy soups, and simmering batches of meaty Italian Bolognese sauce.  Some days I’m pressed for time but, still want to prepare a dish filled with that all day, slow cooked taste. That is when I whip up a steaming pot of Unstuffed Cabbage Meatballs. 

Stuffed cabbage is one of the ultimate comfort food dishes.  Many ethnic groups including Polish, Serbian, Jewish, and Croatian prepare and serve stuffed cabbage.  The basic rolls are the same for each nationality. It’s the tomato sauce that they bake in that varies from group to group. Some season the sauce with sauerkraut and smoked ham. Other recipes call for the addition of raisins, brown sugar or smidge of honey. 

Traditional stuffed cabbage is a recipe that takes a few hours to prepare.  Tender cabbage leaves are blanched and filled with sautéed onions, ground beef and pork, white rice, and simple seasonings including garlic, salt and pepper. The sturdy rolls are nestled in a baking dish and covered with slightly sweet tomato sauce. The home cooked dinner slowly bakes for about an hour and a half or so to allow time for the flavors to combine and mingle. 

Unstuffed Cabbage Meatballs are prepared with the same ingredients as traditional stuffed cabbage rolls.  The meatball version speeds up the recipe prep by baking a combination of beef and turkey meatballs in the oven.  While the meatballs bake, a lightly sweetened and chunky tomato sauce teaming with sautéed onions and cabbage simmers on the stovetop. The meatballs and sauce are combined for a taste reminiscent of slow baked cabbage rolls in much less time. 

The comfort food dish is an ideal freezer meal. After preparing the entrée, cool it completely. Package it in an airtight dish and freezer for up to 3 months.  Just thaw and heat in a large pot over medium low heat for a delicious dinner on a busy night.





Unstuffed Cabbage Meatballs
Recipe type: entree, appetizer
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small head green cabbage, shredded (about 5 cups)
  • 1 medium Vidalia onion, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 can (15 ounces) fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce, divided
  • ⅓ cup golden raisins
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1 ½ tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ¾ cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In a large pot over medium high heat add the olive oil. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the shredded cabbage, sliced onions, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Sauté for 8 to 10 minutes stirring occasionally. The cabbage should be wilted and the onions translucent.
  3. Add the diced tomatoes, ¾ of the can of tomato sauce, golden raisins, lemon juice, honey, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer the sauce for 25 – 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the meatballs. In a large bowl, add the remaining tomato sauce, ground beef, ground turkey, garlic, paprika, ground cloves, eggs, bread crumbs, parsley, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Gently combine the ingredients until thoroughly mixed together.
  5. Form the meat mixture into about 40 small meatballs about 1 ½ inches in diameter. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until just cooked through.
  6. Remove the meatballs from the oven and add to the cabbage tomato sauce. Stir to combine and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Recipe by Amy Casey ~ 2016

© 2016 amycaseycooks


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