Recipes, Soups & Stews

Cabbage Roll Soup with Rice Meatballs

9 comments

Cabbage roll soup with rice meatballs is all of the flavour of traditional cabbage rolls without the effort of rolling!

Cabbage roll soup is a win-win –  all of the flavour of traditional cabbage rolls without the effort of rolling! The rice meatballs are a fun addition – they have a nice firm bite that turns plain cabbage soup into something you’ll really want to eat.

As a Romanian I’ve been eating cabbage rolls all my life but this was my first time making the so-called ‘deconstructed’ cousin of the classic dish. I know it’s really popular in the food blogging world and one of my IG community even explicitly told me that it’s delicious and I have to try it pronto. Well now that I have finally made it, I totally get what the fuss is about. It’s really good!

Cabbage roll soup with rice meatballs is all of the flavour of traditional cabbage rolls without the effort of rolling!

Both my husband and I had the same reaction – “it’s just like cabbage rolls …but it’s also soup!“.  We looove soup in this household so it was a perfect marriage of flavour and concept. 10/10 highly recommend.

Besides being really good, it’s also really easy to pull off. I just used a package of ground chicken, an egg, some rice, a tetra pack of diced tomatoes (essentially 1 can), onion, some soup veg and of course cabbage.

How to Make Cabbage Roll Soup

Saute the cabbage first before adding the aromatics. By sauteing the cabbage first until it’s reduced, it forces some of the water out of the cell structure so that the cooked cabbage is denser and maintains its bite. If you simply cover it with water, the water in the cabbage won’t be forced out and the cabbage will be much softer and could get mushy.

After reducing the cabbage add the aromatics – in this case I used 1/2 a finely diced onion (the other half for the meatballs) and a precut soup mix that has a large proportion of finely diced leek as well as some carrot, and parsley. The proportions are in the recipe at the bottom of the page.

While the cabbage is reducing mix and shape the meatballs – this only takes 10 minutes or so.

Once the cabbage and aromatics are reduced add the seasoning, diced tomato, and water.

Add enough water to cover and simmer for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes gently place the meatballs in, add enough water again to cover, and simmer another 25 minutes.

Pro tip: Make use of all flavour. Use the tomato box or can to pour water into the pot.

Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. Sprinkle with some fresh chopped parsley or dill if you so desire.

Type of Cabbage

As far as the cabbage goes, I used mostly the stalks from a large head of napa cabbage. Once cooked they’re soft but not mushy. The leafy ends were used for Asian Style Napa Cabbage Rolls which likewise only called for a package of ground chicken, some rice, aromatics and Asian pantry staples.

These two dishes were a great way to make use of a whole head of napa cabbage. The soup is a generous 5 servings and the napa cabbage rolls make 2-3 small meals but would go further with some yummy Asian sides.

If you’re looking for other ways to use some cabbage you may also like Slow Roasted Caramelized Cabbage, Cabbage Phyllo Spirals, or Savoury Cabbage Pancakes. What can I say I love cabbage :p

Cabbage roll soup with rice meatballs is all of the flavour of traditional cabbage rolls without the effort of rolling!

The seasoning here is in the Romanian style so I used smoked paprika, summer savoury, black pepper and bay leaves.

Additions / Substitutions

You can add basically any vegetable to develop the flavour of the broth. For example carrot, parsnip, celery root or red pepper would add nice flavour and sweetness.

If you want to use green beans, broccoli or cauliflower better to put those in near the end so they don’t get mushy or release the sulfur like smell that some from overcooking those types of vegetables.

If you don’t like cabbage and just want to skip that part you can do a lot with just the rice meatballs – see my recipe for Romanian Rice Meatball Soup.

Cabbage roll soup with rice meatballs is all of the flavour of traditional cabbage rolls without the effort of rolling!

Print

Cabbage Roll Soup with Rice Meatballs

Cabbage roll soup with rice meatballs is all of the flavour of traditional cabbage rolls without the effort of rolling!

Cabbage roll soup is a win-win –  all of the flavour of traditional cabbage rolls without the effort of rolling! The rice meatballs are a fun addition – they have a nice firm bite that turns plain cabbage soup into something you’ll really want to eat.

  • Author: Cristina
  • Prep Time: 15
  • Cook Time: 50
  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Yield: 5-6 servings 1x
  • Category: Soups and Stews
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Romanian
Scale

Ingredients

  • 350 grams / 3/4 of 1 lb mince meat (chicken, pork or beef)
  • 1/2 cup of rice
  • 1 egg
  • 1 medium onion finely diced – half in meatballs half in soup
  • 1/2 head napa cabbage
  • 1/2 leek, finely diced
  • 1 small carrot, finely diced or julienned
  • 1/4 cup parsley, finely diced
  • 1 can or box diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1.5 teaspoons summer savoury or thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Oil for sauteing
  • 2 teaspoons salt or more to taste

Instructions

Soup

  • Heat oil on medium heat in a large stock pot.
  • Add cabbage and saute until reduced in volume.
  • Add the leek, carrot, half the onion and half the parsley and reduce a few more minutes.
  • Add the diced tomato, 1 tablespoon smoked paprika, 1.5 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon summer savoury or thyme, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and the bay leaves.
  • Add enough water to cover and then simmer over medium-low heat without a lid for 25 minutes.
  • Gently add the meatballs into the soup making sure they are at least half submerged.
  • Add more water to cover.
  • Simmer another 25 minutes, rotating the meatballs halfway through.
  • Stir in remaining parsley.
  • Taste and adjust seasoning.

Meatballs

  • In a bowl combine the meat, half the onion, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon summer savoury or thyme, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, the rice, the egg, and 2-3 tablespoons of finely diced parsley.
  • Mix well until even.
  • Shape into approx. 24 balls (keep in mind they will expand as the rice cooks)

9 Comments

  1. i’m making this today. sounds so good and as a romanian myself, i loove cabbage rolls. yuuum. P.S: can you share the brand of you white pot/pan, please?

    • Hey 🙂 the pot is a Le Creuset 30cm enamelled cast iron saucier. Just got it over the holidays and loving it. Even used it for fries the other night and they didn’t stick. https://www.lecreuset.nl/nl_NL/p/campagnard-in-geemailleerd-gietijzer/CI1180.html?dwvar_CI1180_color=meringue Hope you enjoy the soup! Curious if you’ll react like I did haha 😛

      • so: it was really yummy but interestingly enough it didn’t remind me of cabbage rolls in taste nor texture ..🤔 Actually i was missing potatoes in this beucase i usually put potatoes in both ciorba de varza and ciorba de perisoare..also some “afumatura” because i also put it in both 😜 I’m from Ardeal, we put afumatura, boia and sour cream in everything…

        • Hey! Sorry for the delay and thank you for the feedback! I know what you mean – it definitely reminds me more of like Polish or German cabbage rolls than Romanian. We also love our afumatura, slanina and boia in Dobrogea 😛 that being said I find a good smoked paprika can go a looong way and I use it in everything to the point my husband has said ‘maybe not everything needs smoked paprika?’ haha in my world it does. As for afumatura in ciorba de perisoare – I tried it once but it was more by accident – didn’t know that was a thing! Do you just mix it into the meatball mixture? And is it bacon or something else? Thanks again for the feedback and hope you enjoyed the soup nonetheless!

  2. John-Paul LaPré

    Sorry, the recipe confuses me. The list of ingredients suggests a 1/4 cup of finely minced parsley, and that all of it be used making the soup. However, it also says to use 203 tablespoons of it when making the meatballs! Really? That’s 12 cups! Please let me know if I’m wrong, ASAP. I want to make it.

    • Hey there sorry for the confusion. It’s meant to say ‘2-3 teaspoons’. I’ve corrected it now. Hope you enjoy the soup!

  3. Thanks for the correction, and the recipe! It came out great, and we loved it. I will prepare it again, soon.

  4. Lois Roberts

    do you cook beef before u add to meat balls

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*