Serves a Crowd

Kasha Varnishkes

November  5, 2021
5 Stars
Photo by Rocky Luten
Author Notes

This is Jewish comfort food at its finest—carbs on carbs!—with toasty buckwheat and bow-tie noodles. Onions, mushrooms, and herbs provide just enough veg and greenery to call this a one-dish dinner. This recipe is an exercise in multitasking, but each one is easy-peasy. Reading through the steps a couple times before starting helps.

If my family’s rendition of a classic kasha varnishkes recipe is untraditional, my own is even less so—streamlined in places, stretched in others. Here's what I did:

Extra-virgin olive oil instead of schmaltz. Because it’s what I always have on hand. Of course, if chicken fat just happens to be nearby, yes please. You could do butter, too, or some combination of the three.

A new way to kasha. Kash varn recipes often coat the buckwheat in beaten egg or egg white, to encourage separation and fluff, then cook 1 part grains to 2 parts water, much like rice. I wanted to streamline this—also, produce more consistent results. Sometimes the absorption method worked for me. Other times, mushy gloop. Martha Rose Shulman talked about her own similarly “tenuous relationship” with kasha for The New York Times. Her solution: cracked buckwheat, almost like bulgur (the only catch, this is tougher to find). My solution: boiling the grains in a large volume of salty water, like pasta. Healthyish cookbook author Lindsay Maitland Hunt wrote all about this game-changing technique for us just a couple months ago. It works wonders here.

Roast those mushrooms. If we’re caramelizing the onions on the stove, why not just add the mushrooms to that pan? A couple thoughts: If we’re caramelizing the onions, then sautéing the mushrooms, all in the same pan, that’ll take longer. We also don’t want to crowd the mushrooms. By roasting, these two components can work simultaneously. Plus, the mushrooms can spread out and do their thing, becoming deeply browned and flavorful.

Add salty, starchy pasta water at the end. This Italian pasta trick is especially welcome here, where there isn’t much else going on besides your chosen fat. The pasta water helps create a pseudo-sauce, for the noodles and kasha and onions and mushrooms to drink up, then have a good time. You will, too. —Emma Laperruque

Test Kitchen Notes

Featured In: My Grandma's Second Husband's Favorite Pasta —The Editors

Watch This Recipe
Kasha Varnishkes
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Serves 6
Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt, divided, plus more as needed
  • 1 1/4 cups kasha (roasted buckwheat groats)
  • 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (or schmaltz or butter), divided, plus more as needed
  • 3 large yellow onions, chopped (about 6 cups)
  • 2 pinches freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 10 ounces baby bella mushrooms, thickly sliced (about 3½ cups)
  • 1/2 pound bow-tie noodles (farfalle)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped or Microplaned
  • 3/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Heat the oven to 375° F.
  2. Set a large pot of water over high heat. Add 1½ tablespoons salt, plus more to taste, until it's very salty. Bring to a boil. Add the kasha and adjust the heat to establish a steady boil. (The method here is exactly like pasta.) Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes, until the kasha is just tender—we don't want it mushy. Use a slotted spoon or fine-mesh sieve to transfer the kasha to a bowl. Keep the water warm on the stove.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a very large skillet over medium heat. Pour in ¼ cup of the oil. When it’s shimmery, add the onions; season generously with salt and 1 pinch black pepper. Cook, stirring and lowering the heat as needed, for about 40 minutes, until caramelized.
  4. While that's going, roast the mushrooms. On a rimmed sheet pan, arrange the mushrooms. Drizzle with the remaining 3 tablespoons of the oil; season with salt and 1 pinch of pepper. Toss to combine. Roast for about 30 minutes, until deeply browned.
  5. Return the pot of water to a boil. When the onions and mushrooms are almost done, add the pasta to the water. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes, until just al dente. Using a spider or slotted spoon, transfer the pasta to the skillet with the onions—this way you reserve that pasta water.
  6. Add the mushrooms, kasha, and garlic to the skillet and toss to combine. Add a big splash of pasta water to loosen everyone up, plus a generous pour of oil—and don't be shy with either. Season with salt and pepper. Add most of the herbs and toss to combine. Sprinkle the remaining herbs on top.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Dave Martin
    Dave Martin
  • Emma Laperruque
    Emma Laperruque
  • Margey
    Margey
  • kateinmac
    kateinmac

9 Reviews

kateinmac April 29, 2018
Is it 1 1/4 cups kasha, cooked or 1 1/4 cups cooked kasha?
 
Emma L. April 30, 2018
1 1/4 cups kasha—directions for how to cook are in step 2, though use whatever cooking method you feel most comfortable with!
 
barbee13 October 22, 2019
That much salt is an invitation to high blood pressure, which could lead to a heart attack.
 
AD January 6, 2020
Emma says clearly "use whatever cooking method you feel most comfortable with". So don't use as much salt. Don't use any. Why bother commenting? You don't deserve to cook kasha.
 
Margey April 20, 2021
Most of it goes down the drain though. I've read that salting your water adequately means less salt required later down the track too. That said, only we can know our individual requirements. All recipes are just a guide to be taken with a grain of salt and altered as you please.
 
Dave M. March 18, 2018
When I make this, I give the groats the pilaf treatment: I mix all the kasha with one scrambled egg, then stir it on a dry skillet (on medium heat) until the groats separate (at that point, you can boil the kasha as above). Treating the kasha as a pilaf gives it a slightly more al dente texture, and you can't taste the egg at all. Oh, and one more thing; if you want to go old-school here, consider using schmaltz instead of olive oil -- it will make a difference.
 
Terry C. June 23, 2019
Won’t be vegetarian if you use schmaltz
 
Millie J. January 5, 2020
I wish I'd paid attention when my mother made kasha varnishkes; she probably also did the scrambling with an egg since that is the traditional recipe. I find that when I combine the kasha and egg in the pot, the egg sticks like crazy and is really tough to scrub off at the end no matter how assiduously I stir while it's cooking. The only thing that mitigates that is to have boiling water ready to pour into the pot the second the kasha groats seem to be separating. My mother undoubtedly used schmaltz, too. It must have been extra work for her, she didn't make it that often, but it was delicious.
 
beejay45 March 17, 2018
This sounds amazing? We ate kasha fairly often when I was a kid, but I'd never seen this dish. Guess that's what happens when you've got a bunch of Norwegian Lutherans in the family. ;) Happily, I just bought two 1 kilo bags of kasha, and I always have bowties...and mushrooms needing to be used now that I think about it. Perfect timing.