Cabbage stuffed rolls commonly are topped with a tomato-based sauce before baking, but you might prefer to substitute a creamy cheese sauce for acidic tomato. Homemade cheese sauce is much tastier than any store-bought variety and is easy to make. The sauce starts as a bechamel sauce, a white sauce that serves as the base for a wide variety of dishes.
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat, using about 1 to 2 tablespoons of butter for every cup of cheese in the cheese sauce. A regular block of cheese weighs about 8 ounces and equals roughly 2 cups of cheese when grated, which would require 2 to 4 tablespoons of butter to start the sauce. You should be able to cover a large pan of cabbage rolls with a sauce made from 2 cups of cheese, but less is needed for a small dish of cabbage rolls.
Stir in equal parts of flour and cook for about 1 minute until smooth, using a wire whisk to ensure the ingredients are well incorporated. The flour must be cooked in the butter to eliminate the raw flour taste that can ruin cheese sauce.
Stir in 3/4 to 1 cup of milk for every tablespoon of butter. Add the milk a little at a time, stirring in between to ensure the ingredients are well incorporated and the sauce is smooth. Simmer the liquid for a few minutes until it begins to thicken.
Add spices to taste, if desired. You might season the cheese sauce with salt and pepper, add cayenne pepper for spice, or nutmeg for a hint of sweetness similar to a Swedish meatball sauce.
Sprinkle the cheese slowly into the thickened milk mixture while stirring constantly to melt and incorporate the cheese. If the mixture seizes up while stirring, add milk or broth a tablespoon at a time to thin out the sauce. The cheese sauce should coat the back of a spoon well, but should be thin enough to slowly drip off the spoon.
Cook cabbage leaves just until they are soft and pliable. Stuff them with your choice of raw meat and cooked rice seasoned to taste. Roll up the cabbage rolls and place them side by side in a baking dish. Bake the cabbage rolls for about 1 hour or until they reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, the safe minimum temperature for ground meat.
Drizzle the cheese sauce over the cabbage rolls until they are evenly covered. If desired, place the cabbage rolls back in the oven to cook for a few minutes with the cheese sauce topping.
Cheese sauce allows for plenty of experimentation in the ratio of ingredients. It always helps to follow instructions carefully the first time you make a new sauce, but add your own spin on it after you master the process.
Cheddar cheese is a popular favorite in cheese sauce, but feel free to use other cheeses such as Monterey Jack to change the flavor. You also can use a blend of different cheeses for a more complex cheese sauce.