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Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Serves 6 to 8

There are many different versions of stuffed cabbage rolls. This old family recipe came from my mother. It uses a slightly sweetened and thickened tomato sauce that is common to the Pennsylvania Dutch, including the Amish. Although easy to make, it takes some preparation time, so start early. The casserole reheats very well, so it can be made several days ahead and refrigerated. The recipe can be made in any amount needed.

   Filling    Sauce

There are several techniques for blanching the cabbage leaves. I prefer to cut the bottom of the stems of the outer leaves, gently remove them from the head, then cook 3 or 4 at a time in lightly salted boiling water until tender, about 4 minutes. When I get to the inner portion of the cabbage where the leaves are too tight to remove without ripping, I immerse the remaining head into the water and remove the outer leaves as they become loose. Separate the cooked leaves on a clean towel so they can drain and cool quickly.

To make the filling, place the ground beef in a medium bowl. Add 1-1/2 cups of the cooked rice, reserving any remaining rice for assembly, and the remaining filling ingredients. Mix well with hands until all is combined. (To taste for seasoning, take a small piece of the mixture and cook in a skillet or in the microwave.)

To make the sauce, heat the butter and oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until just starting to brown. Add the tomatoes, sauce, brown sugar, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium; cover and simmer about 10 minutes. Add the pinch of cinnamon and taste for seasoning.

Preheat oven to 350° F. To assemble, first cut a vertical slit in the thick portion of the leaves so they will roll easily. Starting with the largest leaves, place about 1/4 cup of filling at the thick end. Start to roll, tucking in the sides as you go. Roll as tightly as you can. This will make about 16 rolls, depending on the size of the leaves. When you have used up all of the filling, take the remaining leaves and lay them on the bottom of a baking dish or roasting pan large enough to hold the rolls in one layer. Top with the remaining cooked rice. Spoon just enough of the sauce over the layer to moisten. Place the cabbage rolls, seam-side down, in rows on top of sauce. Pour the remaining sauce over all. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil. Bake for about 1 hour or until hot and bubbly.