Table of Contents
Holubtsi, or stuffed cabbage rolls, is a beloved staple of Ukrainian cuisine. This dish is as comforting as it is flavorful, with hearty rolls of cabbage filled with a savory mixture of rice and meat, all baked in a rich tomato sauce.
Holubtsi derives its name from the Ukrainian word for ‘pigeon,’ inspired by the shape of these stuffed rolls that resemble small birds. Traditionally, these rolls are made by blanching cabbage leaves, then stuffing them with a filling typically comprised of meat and rice, though vegetarian versions are also quite popular.
Once filled and rolled, the Holubtsi are nestled into a baking dish, covered with savory tomato sauce, and then baked until tender.
Holubtsi is a dish that holds a special place in the heart of Ukrainian cuisine and culture. It is a common feature at holiday feasts and family gatherings, but also a simple enough dish to be enjoyed on any weeknight. The beauty of Holubtsi lies in its versatility – it can be adapted to suit different dietary preferences without losing its essential character.
As such, it beautifully embodies the spirit of Ukrainian cooking, which emphasizes heartiness, comfort, and the use of locally available ingredients.
For the Holubtsi:
- 1 large head of cabbage
- 1 cup of uncooked rice
- 1 lb of ground meat (beef, pork, or a mixture of both)
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the Sauce:
- 1 can of tomato sauce (about 2 cups)
- 1 can of diced tomatoes (about 2 cups)
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- Salt to taste
- Start by preparing the cabbage leaves. Blanch the whole head of cabbage in boiling water until the leaves are soft and pliable. Carefully remove the leaves and set them aside to cool.
- Prepare the filling by cooking the rice according to package instructions. In a separate pan, sauté the onions and garlic until translucent, then add the ground meat and cook until browned. Combine the cooked rice and meat mixture, then season with salt and pepper.
- Lay out a cabbage leaf and place a spoonful of the filling in the center. Fold in the sides and roll up the leaf to encase the filling. Repeat with the remaining leaves and filling.
- For the sauce, combine the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Spread a thin layer of the sauce on the bottom of a baking dish.
- Arrange the cabbage rolls seam-side down in the baking dish. Pour the remaining sauce over the rolls, making sure they are fully covered.
- Bake in a preheated oven at 350°F (175°C) for about 1 hour, or until the cabbage is tender and the flavors are well combined.
Depending on the size of the cabbage leaves, you should get around 12-16 rolls.
Holubtsi is traditionally served warm, often alongside a dollop of sour cream, which adds a lovely tang to balance the richness of the dish. They can be enjoyed as a main course with a side of fresh salad or as a hearty accompaniment to a larger meal.
- Can I make Holubtsi vegetarian?
- Yes, you can substitute the meat with a mixture of sautéed mushrooms and onions for a vegetarian version of this dish.
- Can Holubtsi be made in advance?
- Yes, Holubtsi is a great dish for meal prep. You can prepare the cabbage rolls a day in advance, refrigerate them, and then bake them just before serving. Leftovers also reheat well and can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days.
Holubtsi is a dish that truly encapsulates the soul of Ukrainian cuisine – it’s hearty, comforting, and filled with love. Whether you’re of Ukrainian descent or just a fan of good food, making Holubtsi at home is a culinary journey worth taking. Enjoy the process, and don’t forget to share this delicious dish with your loved ones.
And remember, this is just one of many delectable dishes from Ukrainian cuisine. Don’t stop here – explore and savor the richness of Ukraine’s culinary heritage. Happy cooking!