Cabbage Rolls, Deconstructed


I am completely aware that the term “deconstructed” is overused these days, but that’s exactly what innocently came to mind when I first thought about this recipe.

Cabbage rolls have always been a favorite of mine – mostly because of all the varieties of stuffings potentially hiding inside. Ground pork with rice and raisins, reminiscent of dolma, or sausage rolled in cabbage, smothered in red sauce – all delicious, comforting, and reliable.

There’s nothing tedious or challenging about making cabbage rolls, but it’s easy to run out of the nice big cabbage leaves.

So I was staring at a cabbage the other day, and thought I could simply parboil the cabbage, and create a layered “casserole” of cabbage and sausage. But I also needed a white sauce and cheese.

I not only was thinking of traditional cabbage rolls, but also a recipe I made which was bacon and mushrooms in béchamel and wrapped in cabbage leaves – more of a side dish than a meal, and deliciously rich.

So here’s what I did, combining the components of both recipes.

Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls
printable recipe below

1 large head of white cabbage, about 3 pounds
1-2 tablespoons oil or bacon fat
2 pounds Italian sausage
1/2 pound ground pork
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Approximately 4 cups of bechamel, double this recipe
Grated Gruyère, about 16 ounces

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Have a large pot of slightly salted water heating on the stove. Slice the cabbage in half and remove the core.

When the water comes to a boil, add the cabbage halves and keep them submerged. I used a plate with a weighted lid.

Cook the cabbage for about 6-7 minutes, or until the leaves soften a bit. Place the cabbage in a colander to drain and cool. When you can handle the leaves, separate them slightly and let them drip dry on a dish towel or paper towels.

Meanwhile, cook the sausage, pork and onion over medium-high heat, along with some oil, until barely any pink shows; don’t overcook.

Add the fennel seeds and white pepper. Taste for salt.

Lightly grease a 9 x 13″ baking dish.

Begin with adding cabbage leaves to the bottom of the dish.

Next add one-fourth of the sausage mixture, topped by one cup of bechamel, and sprinkle with about 4 ounces of grated cheese.

Repeat these layers three times or, if your baking dish is shallower, form only three layers, using thirds of the sausage mixture, bechamel, and cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes, until golden. Let sit for at least 15 minutes before slicing.

Serve with some buttered potatoes for a really hearty meal!

One could certainly add celery, carrots, and parsley to the meat mixture.

Or, go a different direction with seasoning the meat component to make it Italian-inspired. There are so many options.

note: This deconstructed cabbage roll casserole would be just as good with a red sauce instead of a cheesy white one, and definitely less caloric, if you worry about that sort of thing.




62 thoughts on “Cabbage Rolls, Deconstructed

  1. How interesting… cabbage rolls without the roll! What a great idea. The rolling part can be intimidating. There’s no reason not to love this. Thank you!

  2. Perhaps in these days of political correctness, they should be called differently-constructed cabbage rolls! ;-) they look fantastic Mimi!

  3. Interesting recipe – I like the use of a béchamel sauce. I have a “deconstructed” recipe where the raw cabbage is chopped up and in 2 layers among meat, cheese and a red sauce. However, it takes 90 minutes to cook, but no pre-cooking of the cabbage!

    • I actually thought about chopping the cabbage, but decided I’d prefer to see layers, although it’s certainly not a beautiful dish. I don’t think the white sauce could have held up to 90 minutes of cooking, but i can see how a red sauce would.

  4. I don’t often make cabbage rolls, but when I do I always deconstruct them! Don’t actually like the roll part for some reason. Anyway, your version looks wonderful! Almost like a lasagna. Good stuff — thanks.

    • So this wasn’t just my brilliant idea?!! Honestly this dish was so good we couldn’t stop eating it. My husband even had it like a side dish.

    • Honestly, Ashley, this ‘casserole” was not pretty, but my husband and I fought over the last piece. It was truly delicious.

    • You have to poach the cabbage, but I just cut mine in half, since the full leaves aren’t necessary, just a semblance of layering. Easy!

  5. Stuffed cabbage is comfort food to me. I grew up on my mom’s, which was simply and deliciously baked in chicken broth. I love cabbage rolls and eat it any way I can get it.This layered version looks incredible!! The cheese and béchamel adds so much richness and decadence!

    • Thank you. This actually ended up being even better than I’d hoped. Definitely rich and decadent, and very satisfying. Cabbage is wonderful!

    • Thank you Greg! I do love cabbage, and it’s so wonderful both raw and cooked. Hm, i guess that’s the case with most vegetables…..

  6. I must confess, this seems like a fantastic variation on a lasagna to me! Call it what you may — it sounds decadent and delicious.

  7. Like kitchenriffs, my first thought on seeing the pie dish was “oh wow, like cabbage roll lasagne”! My grandmother used to make cabbage rolls, much like you desribed yours but without raisins, and I have yet to give that a go. Should probably ask my mother and write down the recipe.

    • What nationality is your mother? I’m wondering only because your grand mother made them. Of course they might be a more ubiquitous peasant food than I realize.

  8. Believe it or not, I don’t think I’ve ever had a cabbage roll. But I love the deconstructed idea, and I love all of the ingredients in there. Sign me up for one…or three! :-)

    • I think classic cabbage rolls are Hungarian, served baked in a red sauce. Very good. I thought I’d try something different, and I’m not one for making or eating “casseroles!”

  9. Cabbage rolls can be one of those things that make you roll your eyes up to the ceiling if they’re not done right. But your recipe certainly does look tempting with the fennel seeds and white sauce! BTW, what are those dark things on the plate- they wouldn’t be potatoes, would they!

  10. kålpudding is our version over here. You can deconstruct it or layer it. But, the use of bechamel and fennel put a new twist on it. We’ll have to try your version on some of our fellow Swedish cabbage lovers.

  11. I like this Mimi. It reminds me of The Hairy Bikers (not sure if you’ve heard of them) when they created a skinny beef lasagne recipe using the rolled out sheets of blanched leeks. Yours is unique with a white sauce and not a lasagne sauce though. :-)

    • Oh wow. That sounds a bit tedious, although I imagine it was delicious! Yes, I’ve heard of them… the big hairy guys, right?!! Well it is layered, but was very easy to make. So addictive!

  12. OK, there’s that white sauce! I have never had cabbage rolls with anything other than the swee/sour tomato sauce. This looks so comforting! I wish I had a plate in front of me right now!

  13. My mom used to make cabbage roll casserole a lot, but she never put cheese on it. I love the idea! I also love the inclusion of white sauce. This sounds so nice.

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