There might not be a more boring Asheknazi dish out there. Kasha Varnishkes (or just Kasha as my Mother calls it) is bowtie pasta with buckwheat. The tan of the noodles, with the brown of the grain, along with the white of the onions and the gray of the mushroom might sound bland… and it is. Yet, for some reason, it is a classic family favorite. So where does kasha varnishkes even come from? Great question. Kasha, in Yiddish, means buckwheat, and varnishkes comes from “dumplings” (wait for it…). The Jews used to put the kasha (buckwheat) in dumplings. But over the years, the Jews got lazy, they found out about the wonders of Italian pasta, and voila, now we have “buckwheat dumplings” without the dumplings.
Many people simply add goodies with the cooked buckwheat to the noodles, without use of the oven. This is great, but I find that putting it in the oven for the final step gives the noodles a nice addition: the noodles on the edge turn crispy and delicious. I find this to be critical, but this step, I guess, is optional.
The other day, as I reached for the bowties at the grocery store, there were nice colorful (spinach, tomato, and squash medley) bowties right next to it. I thought, hmm, there will add some color… As I started to make this dish, I couldn’t go wrong. It is so simple. As I took it out of the oven, I had a quick taste, and some was awry. I screwed up! I forgot the add the water. Anyway, I tried to salvage it by adding water after the fact. It finally tasted ok, although my girlfriend of Russian decent was quick to notice my misstep.
Continue for recipe…
So here is the recipe, an adaptation from my Mother’s:
Prep Time: 20-30 mins
Total Cook Time: 1 hr.
- 1 small onions, diced
- 20-30 small button mushrooms, sliced thinly
- 3/4 lbs bowtie pasta (plain or colored)
- 1 c. buckwheat, toasted (if not already toasted, pre-toast in oven at 400F for 10 mins before starting)
- 1 egg
- Plenty of oil (or butter or schmaltz; use plenty!)
- Salt and pepper
- Bring water to boil (enough for 1 lb of pasta). Cook pasta when boiled, al dente.
- Preheat oven to 325F
- In large pan, saute small onion with oil/butter/schmaltz
- When begining to be translucent, add in mushrooms
- In another small bowl, lightly beat an egg. Mix in buckwheat
- When mushrooms have changed color, add in buckwheat/egg mixture
- Add 1 cup of water; cook until water was been soaked up
- Salt and pepper to taste – should use liberally
- Mix pasta and everything else, and place in casserole dish (or similar kitchenware)
- Place in oven, at 325F, for 20 mins