Nana’s Cabbage Rolls

Nanas Cabbage Rolls – Kellis Kitchen
When I was a girl, Nana grew cabbage in the garden and this was one of the recipes she made to use the cabbage.  I made it exactly as the recipe called and I think this recipe is one of the best renditions of hers that I have ever done.  In a moment I was taken back to her kitchen table where she was bent over folding together the rolls and singing along to the radio.

The cabbage roll recipe is hamburger and rice with spices and an ingredient not found in all recipes for this old fashioned main dish and when it is, often it is overwhelming. Nana used just the right amount of cinnamon to balance a hint of sweetness with the heartiness of the meal – I hope you will love it as much as I do!


12 Cabbage Leaves

1 and ½ Pounds of Hamburger meat

1 and ½ Cups shredded cheese

1 Cup cooked rice

1 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes – I always use Red Gold!

Nanas Cabbage Rolls – Kellis Kitchen

1 14 oz. can crushed tomatoes

6 Strips of bacon cut in half

1 egg beaten

2 teaspoons salt, divided

½ teaspoon pepper

½ teaspoon ground sage

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

12 toothpicks



Pre-heat oven to 350 F

Mix the hamburger, cooled cooked rice, cheese, egg, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, sage and cinnamon together.

Cut that hard piece out of the cabbage leaf – if there is one.  Cut it out like this:

Nanas Cabbage Rolls – Kellis Kitchen

Bring a pot of water with 1 teaspoon of salt to a boil and drop each cabbage leaf into the water.   Using a slotted spoon, take the cabbage out after about a minute – you just want the cabbage to be flexible.

When you take the cabbage out of the boiling water, lay them down on paper towels.

Taking about a serving spoon full of hamburger mixture,

Nanas Cabbage Rolls – Kellis Kitchen

put it into one cabbage leaf and roll up like this. Just like a burrito by folding in the sides as you go.

Nanas Cabbage Rolls – Kellis Kitchen

Wrap a piece of bacon around the roll and secure it all with a toothpick.

Nanas Cabbage Rolls – Kellis Kitchen

Pour the can of diced tomatoes in the bottom of the dish – and you can even stack them 2 high like she did with a little tomato in between each layer.

Nanas Cabbage Rolls – Kellis Kitchen

When they are assembled,

Nanas Cabbage Rolls – Kellis Kitchen

pour the can of crushed tomatoes over the top.

Nanas Cabbage Rolls – Kellis Kitchen

Cook in oven between 45 minutes and an hour.  Let it rest for a few minutes and then serve!

Nanas Cabbage Rolls – Kellis KitchenI am partying this weekend at Weekend Potluck!


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  1. Joan in VA says

    Except for the bacon, that is the way my mother made them. I haven’t made one in years because my husband really doesn’t like cabbage, but he just might have to put up with it one day this week :-}


    • Kelli says

      That’s exactly what my husband did – drug around the house with that face men put on when they don’t like something. I cooked 3 cabbage dishes in one day! :) I hope you enjoy it!

    • Kelli says

      Thank you Becca! The bacon gives the cabbage a deeper flavor. She cooked for her 5 brothers and sisters then her and pa’s 6 kids, numbers children she babysat, grandkids and neighbors. She had lots of practice! :)

  2. Debbie says

    Ok, I’ve never heard of adding cinnamon, but I also never heard of using sage, cheese or bacon either! Here, they’re called Gwanki (not sure on that spelling) and we thought it was a Polish dish; they always have ample garlic in the meat mixture. Since we’ll be eating corned beef and cabbage tomorrow, I’ll make sure to leave some of the larger leaves separate so we can try this soon!

    • Kelli says

      I kind of think Nana got at least part of this recipe from mom’s best friend in school (Mary Jo) mother – they were Lebanese so that could be the cinnamon influence. I hope you enjoy it!

  3. says

    My grandmother made these all the time when I was growing up. I don’t have her recipe, though. I’ll have to try yours!

    Also, I know it’s not the technical name for them, but she always called them pigs in a blanket. I’m not sure why. Daniel makes fun of me when I call them that.

    • Kelli says

      I think different parts of the country call them different things – I think it’s cute! Maybe she put some pork in hers?

      • says

        I don’t believe she did, but maybe her mom made them with pork, giving them the name… Who knows. I just Googled it, and apparently it’s a Pa Dutch thing. I should have realized this way before now!

        I also call Grilled Cheese “toasted cheese” because I have to be different, apparently 😉

    • Kelli says

      I think you will like it Lillian! If you just use that 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon, you will love it. Once I added 1/4 teaspoon and it was just too much. Too sweet.

  4. Tena Britts says

    Hiya Kelli, I was taught by my mother and Granny on how to make Cabbage rolls, They Both had their opinions on what to put in them, Granddaddy didn’t like bacon in it he would say, bacons for breakfast!, but Mom and Granny would mix everything together and add tomato paste to the mixture.

    • Kelli says

      Sounds wonderful Tena! I always think it is interesting to see who unwinds their bacon setting it aside and who eats it right along with the rest of the roll. Everyone has a different name and a different version – all good! :) Thank you for dropping by and please come again!

  5. says

    The bacon is a brilliant addition, Kelli! Of course, I’d add bacon to just about anything. :) I love your Nana’s cabbage rolls. Is there anything that woman didn’t make deliciously?!

    • Kelli says

      Thank you Stacy! I cannot think of anything she could not make well – I guess it comes from lots and lots of practice!

    • Kelli says

      Grandmas are good like that, aren’t they? I find myself doing things for Rocket that I would NEVER done for my daughter or sons! :)

        • Kelli says

          Hi Mary – yes, 1 diced and 1 crushed although I assume you could use 2 fourteen ounce cans of whatever kind of tomato products you have! Thanks for dropping by and please come again!

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