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Un-Stuffed Cabbage with Meatballs in Sweet-and-Sour Tomato Sauce

Un-Stuffed Cabbage with Meatballs in Sweet-and-Sour Tomato Sauce

Photo by Laura Chase de Formigny for The Washington Post

This dish delivers the essential flavors and textures of grandma’s stuffed cabbage in a weeknight friendly, one-pot way. The classic meat and rice “stuffing” takes the form of meatballs here — made more healthful with brown rice — and the cabbage is simply chopped and sauteed in the same pot the meatballs are browned in. It’s all simmered in a sweet-tangy, raisin-studded tomato sauce, giving you all the comfort of the Old World recipe, with a fraction of the effort.

Storage Notes: Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.


1 medium yellow onion (about 6 ounces)
1 pound lean ground beef
1 cup cooked brown rice (fresh cooked, leftover or thawed from frozen; from about 1/3 cup uncooked)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 cloves garlic, minced and divided
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium head green cabbage (1 1/2 to 2 pounds), cored and chopped
Two (15-ounce) cans no-salt-added tomato sauce
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup (scant 2 ounces) raisins
Fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, for garnish (optional)


Grate the onion on the large holes of a box grater until you have 3 tablespoons. Dice the remaining onion.

In a large bowl, combine the beef, rice, egg, half of the garlic, the grated onion, and 1/4 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. Gently mix with your hands until just combined; do not overmix. Roll the mixture into 12 meatballs that are slightly larger than a golf ball. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes (to firm up).

In a Dutch oven or large, heavy pot over medium-high heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the meatballs and cook, gently turning the meatballs with a spatula until browned all around, 4 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meatballs to a plate.

Reduce the heat to medium, then add the diced onion and the cabbage to the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage softens a bit, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining garlic and cook, stirring, until aromatic, about 1 minute.

Add the tomato sauce, vinegar, maple syrup, raisins and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until the cabbage softens, about 15 minutes. Remove the lid and return the meatballs to the pot. Recover and continue to cook until the meatballs are just cooked through and the cabbage is tender, about 10 minutes more. Remove from the heat.

Divide the cabbage, meatballs and sauce among the bowls, garnish with the parsley leaves, if using, and serve.

Makes 4 Servings

Per serving: Calories 369; Total Fat 10g; (Sat Fat 3g); Protein 22g; Carb 49g; Fiber 6g; Cholesterol 78mg; Sodium 245mg; Total Sugar 28g


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