Ricotta Stuffed Cabbage Shells

If you're looking for a gluten-free option for dinner, these ricotta stuffed cabbage "shells" might be the answer. There are no pasta shells involved here in this Italian dish, but you won't miss them. All the flavors are present with a tasty filling stuffed inside cabbage leaves and baked with cheese and a tomato meat sauce.

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Cabbage Rolls Meet Baked Shells

I love a good baked pasta just as much as (dare I say more than) the next person. I’m also a sucker for a good cabbage roll. So, why not put the two together and have a gluten-free cabbage roll dish that tastes like one of my favorite pasta dinners? Sounds like a win-win-win for me! These Ricotta Stuffed Cabbage Shells are exactly that – a mash-up between the classic American-Italian baked shells and Polish cabbage rolls.

A portion of ricotta stuffed cabbage shells on a white plate with blue rim and a knife and fork.

Gluten-Free Baked Shells

I like this recipe because it’s delicious, but lots of others might enjoy it because it happens to be gluten-free too! If you try not to eat wheat and are missing your favorite pasta, these ricotta stuffed cabbage shells will hit the spot. The cabbage replaces the pasta shells that are traditionally used. The leaves are wrapped around a ricotta and ground turkey filling that is full of flavor. Then, the little rolls are packed into a casserole with a meat sauce and baked with cheese melted on top. Are you in?

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Ingredients in a bowl - ground turkey, red pepper, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, parsley, egg, ricotta cheese.

Filling for Stuffed Cabbage

This recipe has three components – the cabbage, the sauce and the filling. First you make the sauce and while it simmers, you make the filling, which is quick and easy to put together. You’ll start by browning the ground turkey (you can substitute beef if you prefer). You’ll use most of it in the sauce, but set a little turkey aside. While the sauce simmers, you’ll mix that ground turkey with ricotta, Parmesan, and mozzarella cheeses, an egg and some seasonings. 

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cabbage leaves on a wooden counter

Tip for Removing Cabbage Leaves

The next step is to remove the cabbage leaves from the head of cabbage, and that might be the trickiest part of the recipe. The good news is that it’s not hard to do once you get the hang of it and if you rip a leaf… who cares?! You’ll be able to roll a ripped leaf around the filling and get it in the casserole. Once it is covered with sauce and cheese, no one will know the difference. To remove the leaves of cabbage from the head, simply remove the core of the cabbage head and boil it for a few seconds. The outer leaves should peel away easily. If you get down to a layer that becomes difficult to remove again, just pop the head back into the boiling water. No stress. No struggle. You will be left with cabbage after you’ve removed the workable leaves for this recipe, but rest assured it will not go to waste. You can shred the leftover cabbage for coleslaw, pop wedges of cabbage into a braised corned beef dinner, or chop it up and use it as an ingredient in delicious Colcannon. Learn how to slice, core, dice and shred cabbage here

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Tomato meat sauce in the bottom of a green ceramic casserole dish.

Stuffed Cabbage Shell Sauce

The sauce for these ricotta stuffed cabbage shells is a delicious meat sauce that is flavored with some red pepper, red wine and Italian seasoning with a little boost of oregano. You can substitute beef for the turkey if you prefer, but turkey is delicious and makes this meal a little lighter. You can also leave the red wine out if you prefer to not cook with wine. Just make sure you season the sauce to taste before you spoon your first layer into the casserole dish.

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Cabbage Stuffed Shells in a green casserole dish with a pink and white striped towel.

How to Make Stuffed Cabbage Shells

To make this casserole, you start with a layer of the meat sauce. Then place all the little rolled up cabbage leaves in the baking dish like you were putting them all to bed. Again, don’t worry too much if any of the leaves are ripped. If you don’t tell anyone, I won’t tell anyone. Spread the rest of the meat sauce over the top of the cabbage shells and top with mozzarella cheese. Send the dish to the oven and do a little tidy up in your kitchen. By the time dinner is ready, it will look like you ordered in!

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Ricotta Stuffed Cabbage Shells prepared in a ceramic casserole dish ready to go into the oven.

How Long to Bake Stuffed Cabbage Shells

These baked cabbage shells should bake at 350ºF for about an hour. The first 45 minutes are covered and the last 15 to 20 minutes are uncovered so that you get a nice browned bubbling top to the meal.

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a spatula lifting up a portion of ricotta stuffed cabbage shells

Freeze Stuffed Cabbage Shells

If you have any leftovers, you can freeze portions of this dinner for a rainy day. Cool the casserole completely first. Then, cut between the cabbage rolls and transfer your desired portion to a storage container. Place some plastic wrap right down on the surface of the casserole and freeze for up to 2 months. Of course, you don’t have to freeze the leftovers – you can keep them in your refrigerator for 2 to 3 days and gobble them up this week instead.

Ricotta Stuffed Cabbage “Shells”

  • Prep Time: 45 m
  • Cook Time: 1 h
  • Total Time: 1 h 45 m
  • Servings:
    8

Ingredients

  • pounds ground turkey
  • ½ onion small dice
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • ½ red bell pepper small dice
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 15 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 eggs beaten
  • 3 cups grated mozzarella cheese divided
  • ¼ cups grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley divided (plus more for garnish)
  • 1 head green cabbage

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the ground turkey in the pan until it is no longer pink. Remove the turkey from the pan with a slotted spoon and set it aside.
  2. Add the onions to the pan and sauté for a few minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper, oregano and Italian seasoning and continue to sauté until the peppers start to soften. Return the ground turkey to the pan and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir to combine and then return half of the meat mixture to the bowl and set it aside. Add the crushed tomatoes and red wine to the skillet and simmer for 20 minutes. The sauce will be quite thick.
  3. Add the ricotta cheese, eggs, 1½ cups of the mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and half of the chopped parsley to the bowl with the meat mixture. Mix well.
  4. Bring a half-full large stock pot of water to a boil. Core the head of cabbage and place it core side down into the boiling water for 2 to 4 seconds. Remove the head of cabbage and let it cool on a towel for a minute. Then carefully remove the outer leaves of the cabbage, trying not to tear them. If the inside leaves don’t remove easily, drop the cabbage back into the water for another minute. Remove the thick vein from each leaf and discard. Set the prepared leaves aside.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F.
  6. Spread a layer of the tomato meat sauce on the bottom of a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish. Spoon two tablespoons of the meat and cheese mixture on each cabbage leaf and roll them up over the filling. Place the cabbage rolls, seam side down, into the casserole dish. Spoon the rest of the sauce over each cabbage roll. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese on top and cover the dish with aluminum foil. Transfer the baking dish to the oven.
  7. Bake at 350°F for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, until the cabbage leaves are soft and the cheese has melted and is light brown. Rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.
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Comments (3)Post a Reply

    1. Hi Carrie. If you don’t want to add the red wine, you could substitute a little chicken stock or just some water (rinse out the can of tomatoes with the ½ cup of water and add that).

  1. 5 stars
    Meredith, these were a hit! It was my first time making cabbage rolls and they were great! I’ll be sure to get a picture next time 😉 Thank you for your tasty recipes during this quarantine season – you’ve helped keep the menu interesting and delicious!

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