These funny sounding rolls of cabbage have a long tradition in New England, and are usually filled with ground meat and a grain such as rice and topped with tomato sauce, but this slow-cooked classic can also be made a little lighter, and quicker.
This is a “Slow Food Sunday Recipe” a dish that you plan to make on a lazy day, perhaps when the family or friends are coming over and you have a cooking buddy. It is a little time consuming with lots of steps, but not difficult at all, and it has a lot of fun steps.
But we also have a time-saving version following, just in case…
Turn on the music and play in the kitchen
My granddaughter and I had a blast when we made them recently, I timed how long it took because I was curious; I usually would not recommend putting a time to something that’s enjoyable. Although the clock said an hour and a half until we got it in the oven, the time went fast and we were doing other things as well –– we put together a cake while the cabbage leaves were cooling, and they really did not need to cool that long! We also took time to write down the ingredients, listen to music, and chat! That’s the fun of slow cooking, so I actually don’t know how long it would take if this was your only task, and I don’t think it matters.
Lessons from a Polish cook
Before my dad was in the picture, my mother was briefly married to a man from a Polish family and she lived with them until she was widowed. She learned to make several dishes from her mother-in-law, and one of them was “galumpkis” or stuffed cabbage rolls. Although technically this Eastern European dish is called Gołąbki, other variations in spelling include golombki, golumpki,golumpkies,gluntkes, or gwumpki, and probably a few more. Stuffed cabbage is always accurate.
We all enjoyed them, and you can feed a lot of people for little money. The rolls of cabbage are filled with a mixture of usually ground beef or pork, rice, other vegetables, and a tomato sauce of some sort.
The cabbage leaves are removed from the head and cooked for a few minutes to soften them so they can be rolled easily. The easiest way to loosen the leaves is to dunk the whole head in boiling water and remove them one at a time.
Use the large leaves
The recipe calls for two heads of cabbage, but this is far more than you will need because you’re only going to use the largest leaves. Save the rest of the cabbage for another use.
You will also need some of the large outer leaves that are usually cut off before the cabbage gets to the consumer. These leaves will line and wrap around the galumpkis as they bake, keeping the moisture in. Of course, you can just use parchment paper and foil, but my mom used the leaf-wrapping method and I think it does keep them more tender and add flavor.
Recommended, but not necessary
If you grow your own cabbage, you’re all set. But you can also ask at the local farmers market or farm stand if they can cut you a cabbage with the large outer leaves in-tact. You can also use just the largest leaves from your biggest cabbages if you want to use this technique.
This is essentially my mother’s recipe with the substitution of mushrooms for the ground beef and pork, and my granddaughter’s addition of the black beans because she loves them with anything rice. We also fiddled a bit with the spices. The result tasted almost exactly like mom’s!
Use your favorite tomato sauce or puree
Mom used regular tomato sauce or tomato puree, but you can also use my roasted tomato sauce, or any pasta sauce you have on hand.
If you don’t have lots of time to devote the peeling of the cabbages and rolling, I’ve come up with a shortcut involving shredding the cabbage and layering the ingredients lasagna style. Tastes the same, and you can make this on a “Fast Food Sunday Recipe” day.
Either way, they taste even better the second day.
Galumpkis with Mushrooms and Tomato Sauce
10 large outer cabbage leaves (optional)
2 large cabbages
1 1/2 to 2 lb. mushrooms, minced
2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 onion, chopped
2 ribs of celery
1 sweet red pepper
3 large garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. coriander
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. Hungarian paprika
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
Salt and pepper
½ cup red wine
2 cups cooked rice
1 can black beans
2 eggs, optional if vegan
1 ½ quarts tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes, divided
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
Bring a large pot of water to boil.
Cut the core from the bottom of the cabbages by inserting a sharp, sturdy knife at an angle making a cone shape.
Once the water has boiled, add the large outer leaves and cook for about 6 ro 7 minutes to soften. Set aside on a tea towel to cool.
To the water add one of the whole cabbages. In just a few moments, you will be able to gently peel away a large leaf, then another, etc. Place them in a large bowl until you have them all.
When the leaves you are pulling from the head start getting smaller, remove it and add the second cabbage. You are going to want 14 leaves in all, but remove a couple extra in case of breakage. Set the cabbages aside for another use.
Cut out the tough stem ends from the cabbage in a little triangle or you probably won’t be able to roll the leaves up. Place them all back in the pot and boil for about 6 minutes to soften them. You want them nice and pliable.
Remove them to tea towels to cool.
While the cabbage is cooling, start on the filling.
Place your mushrooms in a food processor and pulse a few times until they are finely minced. You can also chop this finely with a knife, depends on what you feel like doing.
Heat a large skillet on medium high and add 1 tbsp. of oil. Saute until they are cooked and reduced in size. Set aside.
Add another tbsp. of olive oil and the onion, celery, and pepper. Cook until the onions are softened and add the garlic, tomato paste, and spices.
Continue cooking for a couple of minutes, then add the red wine followed by the rice, beans, and the mushrooms and place in a large bowl.
Add the vinegar and sugar to the tomato sauce and add 1/2 cup to the vegetables. Taste and correct the seasoning. My granddaughter and I thought it needed more salt and a little more poultry seasoning, so adjust to your own taste.
Let cool, then add the eggs and mix well.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Now the fun.
Prepare the baking dish. Butter the dish and add the two largest leaves to the bottom.
Add a 1/2-cup scoop of mixture to the stem end of a cabbage leaf just beyond the cut out. Fold the ends over and start rolling. About half way, fold in the sides, burrito-roll style, and continue rolling to the end.
Place seam side down in the prepared baking dish. Continue rolling, stuffing them in the pan tightly. My pan only held 12 rolls, but there is enough filling for 14 or 15. Chef’s lunch.
Top with the rest of the tomato sauce.
Add two more large leaves to the top and gently fold over the rest, saving the ends for last. It will look really pretty.
Cover with a sheet of parchment (probably not necessary, but insurance), and place in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for one hour. Remove, gently fold back a leaf and test with a sharp knife to see if the rolls are cooked. They should feel soft, with no squeaky sound when the knife is inserted. If not quite done, bake another 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes.
Serve, making sure to have some red sauce on each one.
And if you don’t have quite so much time…
Quick, No-Roll Galumpkis
Think of this as a stuffed cabbage lasagna. It takes about 1/2 hour to put together, but the cooking time is about the same.
Prepare all of the filling ingredients as above, including the eggs.
Prepare the tomato sauce as above.
Shred one large head of cabbage (about 2 1/2 quarts packed) and blanch in boiling water for 6 minutes. Drain.
Layer half the cabbage on the bottom of a buttered casserole baking dish.
Add the filling on top and spread evenly.
Add the rest of the cabbage and top with the tomato sauce. You probably won’t use it all.
Cover tightly with parchment and a layer of aluminum foil.
Bake at 350 for one hour, remove from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes.
Cut into servings and enjoy this quick version!
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Wow! Quite an interesting dish!
Thanks for stopping by!
i do love cabbage rolls tho i haven’t made them for donkey’s years. are you a vegetarian? is that why you went for mushrooms rather than beef? sounds good to me! cheers sherry
For both health and environmental health reasons, I like to look for alternatives to the meat that was so prevalent in traditional New England cooking. If I can lighten a dish without sacrificing flavor, I will try. My own personal choice is not to eat red meat, but I do enjoy fish every week, and I cook local chicken and lamb for my family.
P.S. I’ve always loved that term “donkey’s years!”
My mother used to make these, and she always used hamburger. These look just like them using mushrooms! I bet they are good.
They are delicious! And they have the teenagers’ seal of approval.
I so love stuffed cabbage! And yours looks perfect and I guess authentic! On my blog I did a post on what I called deconstructed cabbage rolls! The same idea, but so much easier than dealing with all of those leaves!!!
I will certainly look that one up Mimi! I seem to always be reinventing the wheel, but it’s lots of fun!
I checked out your recipe and I love that you made a béchamel sauce! Next time, I’m trying that!
Oh, instead of a red sauce? I forgot that completely!
It stuck in my mind! I made a no-roll version a while ago too, and it was a heck of a lot easier, tasted exactly the same! https://vintagekitchen.org/2019/08/30/galumpkis-stuffed-with-mushrooms-and-tomato-sauce/
These are reminding me of my childhood 🙂 We call them sarmale in Romania and usually we stuff them with ground meat and rice. So so delicious 🙂
Can’t believe I missed this one, Dorothy!
Off to buy cabbage… 🙂
Enjoy this classic dish!
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