Spicy Masterpiece Cabbage Rolls

A couple months ago, I had some Johnsonville spicy sausage links that were on the verge of expiration, some ground beef I needed to use up, and a random jar of vodka sauce that had set up permanent camp in my pantry. I’d never tried vodka sauce but it looked delicious, like a creamy tomato-based pasta sauce. Also it had vodka in the name for crying out loud, so I figured it must be decent based on that fact alone.

I had a sudden spark of inspiration – I’d been wanting to make cabbage rolls for the first time ever, but not just any cabbage rolls…spicy ones. My boyfriend was visiting and I honestly don’t know who suggested what, but in the end, it was a friggin’ masterpiece. We gave some to my parents and they loved them. (We inhaled the leftovers the next day.) Then I posted pics on Facebook and people asked for the recipe, but well, there wasn’t one because we didn’t measure anything out.

I wrote down all the ingredients so we wouldn’t forget, and vowed to make them again in the not-too-distant future so we could measure it all out and share the recipe.

We did, and they were just as good as the first time!

So without further ado, here’s the recipe:


  • 2 heads of cabbage; one purple and one green. (one head is enough but not nearly as pretty)
  • 1 lb. 3oz. package Johnsonville Hot Italian Sausage links (casing removed)
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef (I used 93/7)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 large red onion, finely diced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tsp adobo (don’t skip it)
  • 2 tsp oregano


  • 1 jar Bertolli vodka sauce
  • 1 15-oz. can of tomato sauce (I used Great Value the first time, Hunt’s the second time. Didn’t matter one way or the other.
  • 1 tsp of red pepper flakes (add more for spicier flavor)
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp onion powder



Put uncooked sausage (with casings removed) and uncooked beef in a large mixing bowl. Mix both meats together thoroughly. Add two eggs, red onion, and chopped garlic to bowl and mix all ingredients together well. Add adobo and oregano to meat mixture and mix thoroughly.

To soften the cabbage leaves so we could remove them without breaking them, we cored the bottom of both heads of cabbage then boiled both for 10-15 minutes until the leaves were flexible enough to pull off and fold for the cabbage rolls.

We placed a small amount of meat (just under two ounces) in the center of each cabbage leaf, folded two of the sides up over the meat, then rolled it closed. We placed them all in a large family-size cooking pan until the entire batch was complete. We ended up with exactly nineteen cabbage rolls each time…go figure.


After all the cabbage rolls are rolled up and in the pan, pour the vodka sauce and tomato sauce in a mixing bowl and whisk together until thoroughly blended. Maybe also take a shot of vodka as a tribute to the sauce. Seems like the right thing to do. Add the red pepper flakes, black pepper, and onion powder to the mix and blend thoroughly again. Pour entire mixture evenly over the cabbage rolls.

Simmer the cabbage rolls over medium-low heat until the internal temperature of each roll reaches 160 degrees, which should be 20-30 minutes depending on your stovetop / pan situation. Make sure to check the ones on the outer edges, not the ones directly over the heat. My new behemoth pan did surprisingly well and made it so much easier than the first time around!

And can I just say…holy crap these are good! Don’t invite a big group over because you will want leftovers! 

Next time we’re going to try them in the Instant Pot and I cannot wait!


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