A cherished Polish recipe for amazing Stuffed Cabbage Rolls makes a perfect dinner for a leisurely weekend. Seasoned ground beef and rice fills cabbage leaves to bursting, then everything is simmered in a tangy, fragrant tomato sauce. Enough for seconds, and maybe even thirds.
In a Dutch oven or large stock pot over high heat, bring 4 quarts water and 1 tablespoon salt to boil. Add cored head of cabbage and cook until the outer leaves just begin to wilt, about 3 minutes, turning as needed.
As each one wilts, use tongs to remove the outer 20 leaves from the head of cabbage, one at a time, and transfer to a colander to cool. Remove the remaining blanched head of cabbage and let cool. Do not discard the water.
To make the meat filling:
Return cabbage water to a boil over high heat. Add rice and cook until tender, about 13 minutes. Drain rice through a strainer or fine mesh sieve, rinse to cool, and drain thoroughly.
In a medium bowl, combine cooked rice, grated onion, beef, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
To assemble the cabbage rolls:
Trim any tough ribs from the cabbage leaves and tightly roll 2 tablespoons of the meat mixture into each leaf (you should have 20 rolls). Shred remaining blanched cabbage (both the head and any remaining leaves).
Scatter half of the shredded cabbage leaves in a large Dutch oven. Arrange the cabbage rolls , seam-side down, on top of the shredded cabbage, fitting them snugly to prevent unrolling. (If you are using a smaller pot arrange the rolls in two layers). Sprinkle with remaining shredded cabbage over the rolls.
In a medium bowl, add diced tomatoes and juice, tomato puree, water, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir to combine, then pour over cabbage. Push the whole cloves into the whole, peeled onion and submerge it in the liquid. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer, cover, and cook for 30 minutes.
Discard the clove-studded onion. Sprinkle the crushed gingersnaps into pot and shake pot gently to incorporate them without disturbing cabbage rolls. Continue to simmer, uncovered, until the sauce begins to thicken, about 1 hour.
To serve, gently transfer the cabbage rolls to a serving dish using a slotted spoon. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon some sauce over the rolls and pass the extra sauce separately.