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Eat Like a Freshman: Stuffed Cabbage

Enjoy this hearty and humble dish fit for a Heisman hero.

A glass baking dish sits atop a light-wash wood surface. The dish contains thirteen stuffed and rolled cabbage leaves submerged in a brown gravy.


1 pound ground beef 

¼ pound ground pork 

1 onion, chopped 

¼ cup rice, parboiled 

½ can tomato sauce 





Mix all ingredients together. Cut the core from a head of cabbage. Cook cabbage until just heated through and leaves are pliable. Peel off leaves. Put a handful of filling in each leaf and roll up the leaf. Place cabbage rolls in a baking dish. 

Mix the remaining half can of tomato sauce with an equal amount of water. Pour this over the cabbage rolls. Cook in a moderate oven about one and a half hours. Serve the gravy on this dish on mashed potatoes. 

A note from the author of this recipe, published in 1955:  

This recipe is from Mrs. Alan Ameche. It’s a dish served in her mother’s home and is now a favorite of her husband, Alan, and their son, Brian. 


I was probably supposed to partially cook regular rice, but I found dry parboiled rice in the grocery store, so that’s what I used, and the texture was just fine. Because the rolls spend so much time in the oven, I’d guess that you could use raw white rice and it’d still cook completely. I also used a 15-ounce can of tomato sauce and cooked the cabbage rolls at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  

Cutting the core out of the raw cabbage was much like cracking open the top of a pumpkin for carving: difficult and somewhat dangerous. I managed to do it without incurring bodily harm and plopped my heartless cabbage into a pot of boiling water (which did do me harm). I didn’t want the leaves to get too mushy, so I boiled the cabbage in increments, taking it out every 30 seconds to peel off a few leaves, then exposed the next layer to the water.  

The rolling part was easier than I expected. I just popped a spoonful of the meat mixture into a leaf and folded it up like a baby burrito. The number of cabbage rolls that you get out of this recipe will depend on the size of your meat scoops and cabbage leaves. My endeavor resulted in a baker’s dozen.  


This recipe for stuffed cabbage is simple, bland, and hearty. It’s not bad; neither is it great. It’s exactly good and gets the job done. 

If you want to try this recipe for yourself, I have a few tips that could possibly bring this dish from good to great. First, use a heavy hand with the seasonings. I gave the meat mixture a few hard shakes of salt and pepper, and about a tablespoon of dried parsley. Add more than this, and don’t be afraid to reach for garlic, paprika, or whatever else you use to add flavor. And I wouldn’t cover the cabbage rolls with watered-down tomato sauce if I ever make this again. Instead, use an additional can of tomato sauce and doll it up with some salt and pepper at the very least, and maybe even throw in diced tomatoes and a splash of Worcestershire or vinegar.  

Stuffed cabbage is worth a try if you’re looking to use up your fall harvest and need a break from sauerkraut. Paired with mashed potatoes, as the author, Yvonne Ameche, recommends, the dish has a comforting, old-world charm. And it’s sure to put some meat on your bones.  

I’m not surprised that the husband mentioned in the recipe’s postscript, Alan “The Horse” Ameche ’56, became the UW’s first Heisman Trophy winner and an NFL standout. This recipe, shared in Bucky’s Favorite Foods, is perfect for an athlete looking for a substantial meal. New head football coach Luke Fickell might consider adding this dish to his players’ meal plan to help them bulk up and channel their inner Ameche.  

Even if you don’t harbor hopes of becoming a Heisman Trophy winner, you can still eat like a Badger pro. Start your day with the breakfast of champions, a bowl of Watt-brother Wheaties, and end it with the supper of champions: stuffed cabbage. 

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