Rumor has it that this is the kind of kasha varnishkes that made the late Joan Rivers plotz. [Editor’s Note: We usually don’t indulge in gossip, but this information is just too critical to not pass along.]–Renee Schettler Rossi
LC Gribenes Garnish Note
The only way we can possibly think to improve this simple and classic kasha varnishkes recipe–that is, if you relied on schmaltz to coax the onions into caramelized submission—is to indulge in an untraditional garnish of crisp roast chicken skin, also known as gribenes. Happy Hanukkah, indeed.
- 3 large onions chopped
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil or schmaltz
- 1 pound bow-tie pasta (farfalle)
- 3 cups coarse grain kasha
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Heat the oil or schmaltz in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until soft and golden brown and properly caramelized, at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and eventually reducing the heat to medium or even medium-low so the onions don’t scorch.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta in lightly salted water according to package directions.
- After you get the water for the pasta heating, in a separate pot bring 6 cups salted water to a boil. Add the kasha and return to a boil. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for approximately 8 to 10 minutes, until the water is absorbed and the kasha is soft but still holds its shape and retains some texture.
- In a large bowl, gently combine the onions, kasha, and pasta. Season the kasha varnishkes with salt and plenty of pepper to taste.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
The first law of pasta attraction applies whenever bow-ties (or farfalle) are involved. And this almost foolproof kasha varnishkes recipe does not escape this law. I had made varnishkes once before and loved the idea that something as homely as buckwheat groats could make a vegetarian pasta recipe so comforting. The proportions are more towards the grain in this recipe, and easy to cook for a quick, weeknight, out-of-the-pantry dinner that’s deceptively simple. Don’t overcook the kasha—you want the kasha to have a slight texture rather than a mushiness. When it’s done just right, it’s almost the texture of a ground turkey sauce with pasta and onions. Start sautéing the onions while the water is coming to a boil for the kasha and the pasta. (I did the onions in a Le Creuset and put them in a warm oven with the lid on while I finished cooking the kasha and pasta.) While I am sure this would be delicious with schmaltz, I think it would detract from my feeling that this is a healthy dish! The recipe can easily be scaled up or down. I did a half recipe for just two of us, and we had leftovers for lunch the next day and maybe a bit more. With the leftovers, I wanted to brighten things with more pepper and a tiny bit of acid (lemon or sherry vinegar would do).
Although this recipe for kasha varnishkes veers a bit from the traditional ones I know—I’m having a hard time picturing my bubby (Yiddish for grandmother) using extra-virgin olive oil, and I know at least one recipe that has an egg added to the kasha at the beginning—I served this to the same gentile group who had previously taste-tested (and devoured with pleasure!) , and both were equally a hit. Kasha varnishkes are an integral part of the food traditions I learned as a child. They’re right up there with bagels and cream cheese, noodle kugel, matzoh ball soup, knishes, and blintzes as happy and comforting food. For my friends, kasha was a new grain and a new flavor, but they were just as happy as if they were eating a comfort food they grew up with. It’s difficult to judge how many this recipe will serve, as it’s so easy to go overboard, seriously overboard, eating kasha varnishkes. I think, with a reasonable portion, this would serve 6 to 8 or more. The problem is, it’s hard—nearly impossible—to eat a reasonably sized portion. I watched my guests eat their first serving, then seconds, and on to thirds, and none of the portions were tiny—happily, the recipe makes a lot and could easily be halved to save yourself from too much comfort. Note that when the instructions read, “freshly ground pepper,” know that in a traditional rendition, at least as I know it, that means lots of black pepper. Also, all the ingredients could be combined and then served in the skillet used for the onions.
Originally published December 16, 2014