Healthy Cabbage Roll Casserole

Healthy Cabbage Roll Casserole

What in this world is more comforting than a casserole? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. And this recipe is no exception. Where it is the exception: Unlike 99.999999 percent of casseroles out there, it’s actually good for you. Yes, indeed! At the same time, it is sooooo tasty.

I still can’t believe this recipe happened. I mean, cabbage rolls? Really? Does anyone eat that anymore? Maybe not, but they should! For those who aren’t familiar with cabbage rolls, they’re usually ground beef, white rice, seasonings and some other good stuff rolled into cabbage leaves and then simmered in a pot of tomato sauce on the stove for hours. {Keep reading, my recipe can be made in under an hour and contains many healthy upgrades.}

I honestly have no explanation for how it came about except a bizarre craving that happened one day even though I’d never had a cabbage roll in my life. Next thing I knew I was researching cabbage roll recipes like it was my job. I took one stab at developing a healthier version with ground turkey and brown rice and quickly learned how challenging it is to perfectly roll each of the cabbage leaves and then eat the leftover cabbage rolls at your desk without splattering tomato sauce over your keyboard while answering e-mails. Yeah, that wasn’t pretty. But they sure tasted great!

So that’s how this happened: Deconstructed cabbage roll casserole. Easier to make and easier to eat. You’re looking at layers of ground turkey, brown rice, onion, garlic, shredded carrot, and herbs in a tomato sauce, along with layers of lightly seasoned sauteed chopped cabbage. If you’re a texture fiend like I am this dish delivers – the cabbage maintains a slight crunch amidst the softer turkey, rice, and tomato layers.

It’s totally weeknight doable. I chopped the onion, garlic, and cabbage, shredded the carrot, and cooked the brown rice the night before and then put it together the next day. It makes fantastic protein-packed leftovers and freezes beautifully.

I can’t guarantee it’ll be the most attractive thing you’ve ever made when you serve it from the dish {result below}, but if you adore a bowl of food where lots of components mingle together like I do, well, you’re in luck. Comforting doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Healthy Cabbage Roll Casserole

Healthy Cabbage Roll Casserole 

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 lb ground turkey (I used 1/2 lb ground turkey breast & 1/2 lb ground dark meat turkey)
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large carrot (or 2 smaller carrots), peeled and shredded
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 15 oz tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth or water
  • 1 head green cabbage, cut in half, remove & discard the core, roughly chop leaves
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice

Preparation

**See note below about when to preheat oven**

Heat about 1 Tbsp olive oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Add the ground turkey. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until lightly browned, remove from pot, and set aside.

To the pot, add 1 Tbsp olive oil, if needed. Saute onion and garlic until softened, about 5 minutes. Add shredded carrot, thyme, paprika, and cinnamon. Mix to coat everything in spices.

To the pot, add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and chicken broth or water. Add ground turkey back to pot. Simmer about 15 minutes. Add brown rice to  turkey-tomato mixture and simmer 5 minutes more.

**While turkey-tomato mixture simmers, preheat oven to 350 degrees and saute cabbage (see next step below)** 

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add chopped cabbage, season with salt and pepper, and saute until softened, about 10-15 minutes.

Spray casserole dish {I used 9×13 in} with non-stick cooking spray. To make the casserole add half the sauteed cabbage to bottom of the pan, layer half the turkey-tomato-rice mixture on top, layer the remaining cabbage, and layer the remaining turkey-tomato-rice mixture.

Cover casserole with aluminum foil and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake 20 minutes more until sauce is bubbling.

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