Kasha Varnishkes (Jewish Pasta)

Kasha Varnishkes

When it comes to pasta, us Jewish folk know a thing or two to contribute to the game. We already have kugel (noodle pudding) and matzo ball chicken noodle soup (Jewish Penicillin) as our marks in the noodle world but perhaps the most old-school of them all is an Ashkenazi dish known as Kasha Varnishkes. What this is are buckwheat groats simmered together with caramelized onions and (sometimes) mushrooms, broth, and a few basic seasonings and then tossed with farfalle (bow ties). Often serves as a side (goes great with my Jewish Brisket), it’s light, delicious and customizable to be vegetarian, dairy-free, and/or gluten-free (see Jeff’s Tips in the recipe card below). Welcome to a staple of old school, old world Jewish cuisine!

Watch The Video!

Kasha Varnishkes (Jewish Pasta)

Boil The Water

Water in pot
Begin by boiling some water in a pot.

Caramelize The Onions

Schmaltz
While the water’s coming to a boil, add some schmaltz (rendered chicken or duck fat), vegetable oil, butter or margerine to a 4.5-5-quart sauté pan and give it some heat.
Heated schmaltz in pan
Once heated…
Diced onion in pan
…add some roughly chopped onions.
Onion being sautéed in schmaltz until caramelized
Sauté the onions for a good 20-30 minutes until they become caramelized and a bit syrupy. This creates the amazing flavor foundation for this dish (similar to making schmaltz and chopped liver). Yes, this takes a little time, but make sure you do it as a key flavor to the kasha varnishkes experience!
Adding mushrooms to pan
Although optional, I love mushrooms in this dish, so I add some after the onions are mostly caramelized.
Sautéing mushrooms until softened
Sauté a few minutes more until the mushrooms brown and become softened.
Removing caramelized onions and mushrooms to a bowl
Once your veggies are looking syrupy, caramelized and delicious, remove them to a bowl and set aside for the time being.

Make the Kasha

Kasha
Now it’s time to focus on the kasha, which are roasted buckwheat groats! Be sure to get the medium-sized granulation. (Kasha looks a bit like kitty litter, but it sure doesn’t taste that way. Actually, let’s forget I just compared kasha to kitty litter). Add it to a mixing bowl.
egg
Add an egg to the kasha in the bowl…
minced garlic
…along with some minced or crushed garlic.
Mixing the kasha, egg and garlic together until it's like a paste
Mix everything together until combined and it almost forms a paste.
Adding the kasha mixture to the heated pan
Then, add it to the same sauté pan we used to cook the veggies.
Toasting the kasha
Cook for a few minutes until the kasha is toasted (at this stage, your entire kitchen is going to smell like Brooklyn in 1952).
Adding broth to the toasted kasha in the pan
Now we’ll give this kasha some life! Add a broth of your choice…
Adding seasoned salt and white pepper to the pan
…as well as some seasoned salt and white pepper.
Adding the caramelized onion and mushrooms to the pan
Let’s return those syrupy and incredibly flavored onions and (maybe) mushrooms to the pan to join the kasha party!
Stirring
Give everything a good stir and bring to a bubble…
Lid on pan as it simmers
…and cover the pan while it simmers for a few minutes. This is when the magic will happen.

Cook the Pasta

Pot of water now boiling
By now your pot of water will definitely be boiling. Salt it.
Adding farfalle to boiling water to cook
Add in the classic pasta used for this dish: farfalle (bow ties)!
Pasta cooking in water and draining
Cook according to the packages instructions for al dente. Then, strain through a colander in the sink.
Cooked kasha in pan
By now, the kasha will have absorbed all the seasoned broth and the flavors of the syrupy, caramelized veggies (this is why you don’t skimp out on that step).

Marry it All

Adding cooked pasta to kasha in pan
Add the cooked and strained pasta to the pan with the kasha…
Everything toss together to form kasha varnishkes
…and toss to give it a formal affair now known only as kasha varnishkes!

The Taste Test

One Jewish and one Christian man try the food
Invite someone who isn’t Jewish over to give the a try.
Both men love it
Once they do…
…you’ll see this isn’t only for Jews. They goyim enjoy’em too! Serve them alongside anything jewish such as my Jewish Brisket.
Yield: 6

Kasha Varnishkes

Kasha Varnishkes

When it comes to pasta, us Jewish folk know a thing or two to contribute to the game. We already have kugel (noodle pudding) and matzo ball chicken noodle soup (Jewish Penicillin) as our marks in the noodle world but perhaps the most old-school of them all is an Ashkenazi dish known as Kasha Varnishkes. What this is are buckwheat groats simmered together with caramelized onions and (sometimes) mushrooms, broth, and a few basic seasonings and then tossed with farfalle (bow ties). Often serves as a side (goes great with my Jewish Brisket), it's light, delicious and customizable to be vegetarian, dairy-free, and/or gluten-free. Welcome to a staple of old school, old world Jewish cuisine!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes

Ingredients

The Pasta

  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 pound farfalle (bow ties) or mini farfalle/farfalline

The Veggies

The Kasha

Instructions

  1. Boil the Water: Fill an 8-quart pot halfway with tap water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat.
  2. Caramelize the Onions: Heat the schmaltz (or other fat) in a nonstick 4.5- to 5-quart sauté pan over medium-high heat. Once melted or shimmering, add the onions and sauté for 20–30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they caramelize (which means they become syrupy and golden in color). (NOTE: Yes, this takes a little time, but make sure you do it as a key flavor to the kasha varnishkes experience!)
  3. If using, add the mushrooms and sauté for another 5 minutes, until they are browned and their juices have released.
  4. Transfer the cooked veggies to a bowl to rest and place the pan back on the stove.
  5. Start the Kasha: In a mixing bowl, mix the kasha, egg, and garlic until combined.
  6. Transfer the coated kasha to the now-empty sauté pan and cook, stirring, over medium-high heat until it begins to break up, toast, and separate, 3–5 minutes.
  7. Add the broth, seasoned salt, and white pepper to the kasha and bring to a boil. Return the onion mixture to the pan and stir well.
  8. Cook the Pasta: Add the salt to the pot of boiling water and reduce the heat to medium. Add the pasta and stir. Set a timer to cook until al dente (per the package instructions), or to the shortest amount of time given. When done, drain the pasta in a colander in the sink without rinsing it.
  9. As the pasta cooks, cover the sauté pan, reduce the heat to medium-low, and let simmer for 10–12 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove the cover and see if the broth has been absorbed by the kasha. If not, cover again for a few minutes until it has. If the kasha is done before the pasta, just remove from the heat and keep the pan covered.
  10. Marry It All: Add the cooked and drained pasta to the sauté pan of cooked kasha, onions, and (maybe) mushrooms and toss until combined. Feel free to add more schmaltz (or vegetable oil or butter), seasoned salt, or white pepper to taste before serving. Goes great as a side to my Jewish Brisket.

Jeffrey's Tips

Kasha is naturally gluten-free, and to keep these Varnishkes gluten-free, use gluten-free farfalle (or short-form gluten-free pasta). Also, using a medium-size granulation is key for it to cook properly.

Obviously using schmaltz won't keep this dish vegetarian. As such, feel free to use vegetable oil, butter or margarine to best suit your vegetarian and/or dairy-free lifestyle.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Myrna B

    Way easier to do Kousha in the instant pot.!! Are used to do it this way but you, Jeff, showed me to do it in the instant pot. Where is your less mess? I can’t believe you had a change of heart.

    • Jeffrey

      Hmm. I never shod anyone who to make this dish in the Instant Pot as I have tried it (a few times) and the kasha becomes inedible mush. The Instant Pot can do many things amazingly well, but Kasha Varnishkes is not one of them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to Recipe