Smoky, Spicy Cabbage Rolls Recipe

Sunday Supper

Cooking projects for people who'd like nothing more than to spend a sunday afternoon surrounded by the wonderful aromas of the kitchen.

Smoky, Spicy Cabbage Rolls Recipe

Smoky and warming, these beef and rice-filled cabbage rolls are perfect winter weather fare. [Photograph: Jennifer Olvera]

I've never had an affinity for stuffed cabbage. It's not that I have a problem with it, really; it just never drew me in. That is, until I encountered Smitten Kitchen's version, which is simply amazing. And it's something I go back to time and time again.

I've tweaked the recipe a bit, adding roasted red peppers, garlic and pimentón, which lends a smoky edge and lending a depth of flavor I prefer the spicy version (picante), but use sweet (dulce) if you prefer. It's available in well-stocked grocery stores and from purveyors like Penzys Spices.

And while the original recipe cooks on the stovetop, I prefer the oven, where the cabbage packets go to work flavoring the sauce.

Note: These rolls can be assembled ahead. Just place them in the refrigerator and pull them out 30 minutes before you're ready to cook them. They also freeze beautifully.

  • Yield:Serves 4 to 6
  • Active time: 25 minutes
  • Total time:1 hour


  • 1 medium head Savoy cabbage
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 medium carrot, shredded (about 1 cup)
  • 1 rib celery, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1/4 cup chopped jarred or homemade roasted red peppers
  • 1/2 cup uncooked white rice
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera (smoked paprika)
  • 4 cups spicy V8
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. 1.

    Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Cut the core out of the cabbage, leaving it whole. Place cabbage in a large bowl. Boil a medium pot of water and pour it over the cabbage and let sit for ten minutes.

  2. 2.

    Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large straight-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the ground beef and brown, breaking into small bits. Add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and continue cooking, stirring often, until vegetables are tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Add roasted peppers, rice, tomato paste and paprika. Season with salt and stir to combine.

  3. 3.

    Drain cabbage, remove large leaves and cut out any tough veins. Pat the leaves dry with a paper towel. Using large leaves to create two cabbage rolls, fill each with about 1/3 cup of the meat mixture. Roll up as you would a burrito, tucking the sides in first.

  4. 4.

    Spray a 9- by 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray, and arrange rolls tightly in the dish. Cover with V8 and season with additional salt and pepper, if desired. Cover with foil and transfer to the oven to bake until bubbly, 35 to 40 minutes.

  5. 5.

    Remove from oven, let sit for 10 minutes and serve, spooning additional sauce on top of cabbage rolls when serving.