Marilyn Greenberg’s Easy “Unstuffed” Cabbage

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Here meatballs and chopped cabbage recall the classic with much less of the actual work. Aunt Irene’s version produces a gravy-like sauce that is thick, rich, and sweet without being cloying. Serve this over rice or noodles.


Cooking MethodBaking



Total Timeunder 4 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionBuffet, Cocktail Party, Game Day

Recipe CourseMain Course

Dietary ConsiderationEgg-free, Kosher, Lactose-free, Peanut Free, Soy Free, Tree Nut Free

EquipmentBaking/gratin Dish



Taste and TextureJuicy, Meaty, Savory, Sweet

Type of DishCasserole


  • 1½ pounds ground beef
  • ¼ cup cooked rice
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • ½ teaspoon kosher (coarse) salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 can (10¾ ounces) condensed tomato soup
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice, or to taste
  • ½ cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher (coarse) salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 small green cabbage (about 1½ pounds), cored and shredded
  • 3 gingersnaps, crushed


  1. Combine all the ingredients for the meatballs in a large bowl, and mix well. Set the mixture aside.

  2. Prepare the sauce: Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Then add the soup, 1½ soup cans of water, and the lemon juice, brown sugar, salt, and pepper. Mix well, and stir in the shredded cabbage and crushed gingersnaps.

  3. Using your hands, form the meat mixture into balls about 1¼ inches in diameter and add them to the sauce. Cover the pot, and simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes.

  4. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F.

  5. Transfer the meatballs and sauce to a 13 × 9-inch glass baking dish. Cover the dish and bake for 1½ hours.

  6. Spoon the meatballs and sauce over hot rice or noodles, and serve.


This dish can be prepared a day or two ahead and refrigerated. It also freezes well.

You can also make mini meatballs and serve them as an appetizer for a party.

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