Adapted from many recipes online, especially this one from Smitten Kitchen, and in restaurants, and in my memory. Serves 8-10.
1 head Savoy cabbage (3-4 lbs)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, minced
1 small carrot, shredded (on a box grater)
1 stalk celery, minced
1-1/4 lb lean ground beef or turkey
2/3 cup cooked long-grain white rice
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh black pepper
1/2 cup canned chopped tomato
44 oz (approximately) V-8 or tomato juice
Cut the core out of the cabbage, and leave it whole. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Submerge the cabbage, core side up, in the boiling water. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10-15 minutes. (Hint: if the cabbage floats to the top, set a small ceramic plate on top to keep the ribs of the cabbage leaves under water.)
While the cabbage is in the pot, heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or deep pan (the one you'll use for cooking the cabbage rolls -- I use a 12-inch straight-sided pot, with a lid). Sauté the onion, carrot and celery until the vegetables are soft, 2-3 minutes. Scrape the mixture into a large mixing bowl and set it aside to cool.
Remove the cabbage from the hot water, and carefully peel off the outer leaves (you'll need 18 leaves, or fewer if some of the leaves are large enough to be cut in half). Work with one leaf at a time. Dry each leaf with paper towels. Place the leaf cupped side down on the counter. With a very sharp paring knife, slice off the hardest part of the center rib (or, you can cut it out, and overlap the two flaps of the cabbage leaf to fill the gap). Pile up the whole, trimmed leaves; chop the remaining cabbage into 1-inch pieces, and layer them in the bottom of your cooking pan.
Add to the mixing bowl with the sautéed vegetables the ground beef, cooked rice, tomato paste, parsley, salt and pepper. Mix well (with your hands).
Set one of the cabbage leaves on the counter, cupped side facing up. (If you've cut the rib away, overlap the two flaps of the leaf.) Make a small log out of 2-3 tablespoons of the meat filling, and set it at the end of the leaf closest to you. If you've ever made eggrolls, you know what to do next. Fold up the bottom of the leaf over the mixture. Then fold in both sides, and roll the leaf to cover all of the filling. Place the rolled, filled cabbage leaf in the pot, on top of the chopped cabbage.
Continue with the remaining leaves and remaining meat mixture. Pack the leaves into the pot tightly; you'll need to make two layers.
Sprinkle the chopped tomato over the cabbage rolls, and pour in the V-8 or tomato juice to cover. If the juice doesn't cover, add some beef broth or water so that the rolls are almost covered, but not totally submerged.
Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat. Then, cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 45 minutes (check midway through; if the liquid in the pot is boiling, reduce heat to simmer).
Let the cabbage rolls cool for 5-10 minutes before serving, or let cool completely and refrigerate or freeze. Save any extra braising liquid and the chopped cabbage from the base of the pot -- it's the perfect start to a wonderful soup!