OK, I cannot say this is very photogenic…but when has Pigs in the Blanket ever really looked good? I mean, I think it definitely tastes good…looks? Not so much.
But! The good news is this is a casserole and a bit less fussy than individually rolling the meat into the blanched cabbage rolls.
Mr. FeistyEats and I really enjoyed this dish. It made A TON, but the leftovers reheated nicely in the microwave for work lunches. Mr. FeistyEats even commented this was kind of like a healthy lasagna with the addition of the mozzarella cheese on top. Except, way better, because we don’t really care much for lasagna.
I found the recipe inspiration for this on Gina’s Skinny Taste who found it on another website. This is why it is so great to look for recipes online. You can find so many adaptations. Here is my take on the recipe:
Pigs in a Blanket Casserole Ingredients, adapted from Gina’s Skinny Taste
- 2 tsp. olive oil
- 1 lb. lean ground beef
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
- 1 tsp. Paprika
- salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste for cabbage
- 1 medium head green cabbage, coarsely chopped into about 1 inch pieces
- 1 can (14.5 oz.) petite dice tomatoes with juice
- 1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
- 3/4 cup water – divided (1/4 c. for meat mixture and 1/2 c. for cabbage)
- 1-2 cups cooked brown rice, depending on your preference
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese (optional, but recommended)
- Heat a large frying pan on medium heat and brown ground beef, breaking it apart as it cooks. Remove and set aside.
- In the same pan, add 1 tsp. olive oil and the chopped onion. Cook cook over medium/high heat until the onion starts to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic, dried thyme, and paprika and cook about 2 minutes more. Then add the diced tomatoes with juice, tomato sauce, and ground beef. Add 1/4 c. water to the pan. Simmer until it’s hot and slightly thickened, about 15-20 minutes.
- While it simmers, chop the cabbage into roughly 1 inch pieces, removing the core and outer leaves. Also preheat the oven to 350* and pray a large casserole dish or cake pan with cooking spray.
- Heat remaining olive oil in a large frying pan with lid; add the cabbage and cook over medium-high heat until the cabbage is wilted and about half cooked, turning it over several times so it all wilts and cooks. Season with plenty of salt and fresh-ground black pepper. Add 1/2 c. of water to allow cabbage to steam with the lid on.
- When the meat and tomato sauce mixture has cooked and thickened a bit, stir in the 1-2 cups of cooked rice and gently combine.
- In your casserole dish or cake pan, add half the cabbage, half the meat mixture, remaining cabbage, and remaining meat mixture. Cover tightly with foil and bake 40 minutes, or until the mixture is just starting to bubble on the edges.
- Remove foil and sprinkle on cheese (cheese is optional but highly recommended.) Bake uncovered an additional 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and starting to slightly brown. Serve hot.
- Freezer friendly if you have leftovers. To reheat, thaw overnight in the refrigerator and then either microwave until hot or heat in the oven in a glass dish covered with foil. Also, very friendly to reheat throughout the week as leftovers for lunches or dinners.
Additional Tips: This casserole did take some time to put together. If you are crunched on time, I recommend browning the hamburgers in advance, or even the whole tomato mixture. You could also wilt your cabbage in advance if you have time.
Brown the beef and set aside. In the same pan, sauté the onion, garlic, thyme and paprika. The onion adds a lot of flavor, but it isn’t strong since you sauté it out. In that same pan, add the diced tomatoes with juice, tomato sauce, and ground beef. Add 1/4 c. water to the pan. Simmer until it’s hot and slightly thickened, about 15-20 minutes.
After you have the meat/tomato mixture simmering, sauté the cabbage leaves. There is a lot – this is a large pan and it was filled to the brim. After starting this, I decided it was best to add about 1/2 c. of water to help steam the leaves to get them partially cooked and wilted down. Make sure you do this over medium/high heat. Season liberally with salt and pepper. The cabbage is pretty boring all alone.
When the meat and tomato sauce mixture has cooked and thickened a bit, stir in the 1-2 cups of cooked rice and gently combine. I used a little less brown rice just to cut back on the carbs. I wanted this to be a mostly meat and veggie dish. Oh yeah, while simmering, make sure to use a lid. Unless you like red splatters on your countertops. Note how the cabbage has cooked down quite a bit.
In your baking vessel, first add half the cabbage and then half the meat mixture – layering as evenly as possible.
Repeat the last two layers.
Here is the whole pan – filled to the brim and HEAVY! Cover with tin foil and bake for 40 minutes until bubbling on the edges.
Remove from oven and sprinkle on your cheese. Pop it back in the oven for another 30 minutes until the cheese is melted and starting to brown on top.
Serve immediately. I started out with a small portion but quickly doubled that after tasting it. We really enjoyed this dish! We both ate huge portions and had at least 6 servings left for lunches!
Pigs in a blanket…casserole style. Do it.