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The Hand Off: Stuffed Cabbage with Tomato Apricot Sauce

2010 August 5

by Sarah A. Maine

In my Tuesday post I set the stage for stuffed cabbage, and now it is time to draw up the curtain on my efforts. Having no prior experience stuffing cabbage, I settled in to doing some research on what it would take. My main sources were the Joy of Cooking (p 152 & p 491), The Silver Spoon (p 444), and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (p 401). It turns out that in the realm of stuffed cabbage there are many possibilities and although my association with them is mainly European, the cabbage leaves act as a hearty neutral vessel for the filling which can be adapted to reflect any cuisine.

Between the zucchini, the basil, and the tomato based sauce my dish took on a Mediterranean aspect with an apricot twist. Many stuffed cabbage recipes include cheese in the filling; I elected to keep the cheese outside of my packets and sprinkle it on after baking as a melty topping. Cooking all of the filling ingredients before putting them into the cabbage leaves cut down on overall cooking time. Looking back at the cookbooks I realize I invented my own way of folding the leaves (described in step 7 below). The simplest way is just like folding a burrito, fold in the sides and roll. My way is a little bit trickier but it looks very pretty!

Stuffed Cabbage With Tomato-Apricot Sauce

Prep time: 1 hour

Cook time: 20 minutes

Total time: 1 hour and 20 minutes

Yield: 4 servings


  • 8 large cabbage leaves
  • 8 basil leaves
  • 2 medium zucchini, grated (about 2 cups), salted with 1 teaspoon of salt and drained
  • 3/4 pound ground turkey
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • fresh ground black pepper and sea salt, to taste
  • 6 apricots
  • 6 heirloom cherry tomatoes
  • 4 fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cup stock (chicken or vegetable)
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese

Cooking Directions

  1. Grate the zucchini and place in a strainer, sprinkle with 1 tsp of salt, mixing thoroughly. Place the strainer over another bowl and leave it to drain for about 20 minutes. This step will remove most of the water from the zucchini, keeping it from getting mushy during cooking.
  2. In a bowl beat the egg and then mix in the ground turkey, 1 Tbs olive oil, the fresh thyme, and the nutmeg. Cover and put in the fridge.
  3. Remove the outer leaves from a head of cabbage, being careful not to tear them. Pare down the thick center rib on each leaf for ease of folding later. Bring a pot of water to a boil, place the cabbage leaves in the boiling water for 4 minutes, blanching them and softening them for ease of folding. Remove the leaves from the water and set them aside to cool. You can also steam the leaves to achieve the same result.
  4. In a food processor combine 6 apricots and 6 cherry tomatoes (or 2 medium tomatoes) with fresh basil leaves, 2 Tbsp olive oil, and 3/4 cup of chicken or vegetable stock. Puree until smooth and put aside.
  5. In a large pan sauté the onions and garlic in 2 Tbsp olive oil until the onions are clear. Add the ground meat mixture to the pan and cook until the meat is just done, toss in sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.
  6. Gather the cabbage leaves and the components for the filling, wring out as much liquid as possible from the salted zucchini. Have a baking dish standing by.
  7. Lay out a cabbage leaf so that it acts like a bowl. Spoon in some ground meat and a layer of grated zucchini near the end of the stem – use your judgement on how much will fit in the leaf. Place a whole basil leaf on top of the zucchini. Carefully fold the leaf lengthwise around the filling (like a tiny delicate birthday present). Keeping the seam closed, press the filling in and fold the leaf over over at both ends. Carefully turn the leaf packet over and place it in the baking dish seam side down. Repeat with each leaf.
  8. Pour the tomato apricot sauce over the cabbage leaf packets, bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
  9. Sprinkle with grated cheese and garnish with fresh basil leaves. Enjoy!

This was a challenging but very rewarding dish; I was home alone for a couple of days and I ate it for lunch three days in a row! I think it actually got tastier with each passing day. The apricots in the sauce added extra tangy-ness which was balanced by the simplicity of the zucchini and turkey filling. I recommend serving with a simple potato salad of new potatoes dressed with olive oil, minced garlic, chopped mint leaves, salt and pepper. I am already thinking about doing other versions – MORE cabbage showed up in the CSA box this week!

If you are a member of a CSA farm, you know that this is the time of year when certain vegetables make multiple and voluminous appearances in your weekly share. No matter how hard the farm works to make sure we get a diverse selection there are some weeks when I open the box and let out a little groan. The bounty of the peak of the growing season is a gift, but that can be hard to remember while figuring out what to do with cabbage, zucchini, or eggplant for the 5th week in a row. I love veggies and I love a challenge. I’ll be pushing my creative cooking boundaries and sharing the tasty results with you!