a head of cabbage

Make-ahead casserole packs stuffed cabbage flavor without stuffing

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Yearning for stuffed cabbage for a Passover meal? Enjoy the flavors of the dish without having to actually stuff and roll it with this Unstuffed Cabbage Casserole. It packs a meat, vegetable and quinoa filling between layers of cabbage leaves topped with a sweet and sour tomato sauce. There is also a vegan/parve variation.

The casserole can be made ahead and then refrigerated or frozen. Bring to room temperature and reheat at 350 degrees until hot (cover top with foil if needed). Like most casseroles, it’s even tastier made a day or two in advance.

Looking for something to make with the leftover raw cabbage? Substitute it for kale in this Garlic Potato Sausage Soup.

Unstuffed Cabbage Casserole

Serves 6-8

  • 1 head of green cabbage
  • 1 cup raw quinoa
  • 1/4 cup oil, divided
  • 1 cup chopped onions, divided
  • 1 Tbs. minced garlic, divided
  • 1 Tbs. minced seeded jalapeño, divided
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 tsp. salt, divided
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 3 cups diced canned or fresh tomatoes, divided
  • 4 cups vegetable broth, warm
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley or dill
  • 3 cups plain tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Faith Kramer's Unstuffed Cabbage Casserole (Photo/Faith Kramer)
Faith Kramer’s Unstuffed Cabbage Casserole (Photo/Faith Kramer)

Core cabbage. Detach enough leaves to generously cover the bottom of a medium baking dish (about 8×12 inches) three times, about 12 oz. total. Reserve remaining cabbage for another use. Bring big pot of water to simmer. Add cabbage leaves. Simmer covered, 5-10 minutes until tender and pliable. Drain. Place quinoa in a bowl, cover with cold water and stir. Strain. Repeat. Grease medium baking dish with 1 Tbs. oil.

Heat 1 Tbs. oil in large fry pan over medium-high heat. Add half the onion, half the garlic and half the jalapeño; sauté until softened. Add beef, sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. black pepper. Sauté until well browned, breaking up clumps. Remove to bowl. Discard fat in pan and wipe out.

Add remaining oil to pan over medium-high heat. Add remaining onions, remaining garlic, minced ginger, and remaining jalapeño. Sauté until softened. Add carrots. Sauté 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and sauté 2 minutes. Stir in 1/4 tsp. black pepper. Stir in quinoa until coated in oil. Sauté 2 minutes. Stir in half the tomatoes. Add 1/2 cup broth, stirring often, until absorbed. Repeat with remaining broth until quinoa is cooked, about 20-25 minutes total. Stir in parsley and browned beef. Taste and add 1/4 tsp. of salt if needed.

In a small saucepan, combine tomato sauce, remaining salt, black pepper and chopped tomatoes with the sugar and grated ginger. Heat over medium-low, until the tomatoes have begun to soften. Remove from heat. Stir in the vinegar. Taste. The sauce should be pleasantly tart. Add sugar or vinegar as needed.

To assemble: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on bottom of greased pan. Top with a single layer of cabbage leaves, overlapping and/or ripping them as needed to fit.

Spread half of the filling mixture on top of the cabbage layer. Top with 1/3 of the remaining sauce and a layer of cabbage. Repeat. Spread rest of sauce on top. Bake for 40-45 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before serving, cutting into portions with a knife.

Vegan/parve version: Skip the beef and the oil, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper cooked with it. Sauté all the onion, garlic and jalapeño with minced ginger. Add 1 cup raw almonds, roughly chopped, when adding mushrooms.

Faith Kramer
Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer and the author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen.” Her website is faithkramer.com. Contact her at [email protected].