Kasha Varniskhes (Buckwheat Groats with Bowtie Pasta) is a hearty, warming side dish!
Winter! While most everyone I know is complaining about being cold, I’m sitting happily snuggled up in a sweater, wooly socks, sipping a hot drink to stay warm. Winter foods, like roast chicken of all kinds, beef stew, and cheesy stuff galore (like bisque, cobbler, and casserole) are my happy place. And being from Buffalo, I don’t mind snow…even driving in it!
With my love for winter, I have always wanted to be a skier. It just seems like such a natural fit. Alas, my two left feet combined with the fact that I’m all thumbs precludes that (but I admit, if I had more regular access to snow, I think I’d still be inclined to try to learn!). Needless to say, I’m not a snowboarder or ice skater either.
Despite my lack of proclivity for winter sports, I’m not one to turn down a good sledding run, and if you want to make a snowman, I’m your girl. Heck, I’ll even show up with some darn good homemade hot chocolate and give you a hot meal afterwards. Maybe something like Kasha Varnishkes, which is almost filling enough to be an entire meal in itself!
This is a Jewish Russian dish that I’ve heard is quite commonly served with brisket, but I imagine it’s just as lovely paired with pot roast. I served it along with roast chicken and steamed green beans for a warming Sunday dinner.
If you’ve never heard of Kasha Varnishkes, let me tell you, if you enjoy the nuttiness of toasted whole grains, this recipe will win your heart. Here kasha (toasted buckwheat) is paired with caramelized onion, earthy mushrooms, comforting pasta, the richness of butter, and a pop of freshness from parsley. This recipe is classically made with schmaltz (chicken fat), but I went with clarified butter instead, which added a similar richness (I’m totally not opposed to using schmaltz – and I bet it lends great flavor – but I was fresh out, lol!). Like rice, as kasha cooks, it absorbs liquid and takes on whatever flavor you add; here I used bottled Swanson® Chicken Broth instead of water to enhance the flavor, especially because I was using clarified butter instead of chicken fat. If you want to keep this dish vegetarian, vegetable broth is also a good option.
Something really interesting about this recipe is the use of egg, which coats the kasha before toasting. You might be tempted to leave this step out, but it’s crucial to ensuring that the kasha is chewy with separate grains, instead of mushy like porridge. Plus it bumps up the nutrition!
My take on Kasha Varnishkes was adapted (a little from here and a little from there) from the following sources:
What are some of your favorite cold-weather side dishes?
- 3 tablespoons clarified butter (ghee)
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 1¼ cups (about 85 g) thinly sliced white button mushrooms
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ¾ teaspoon salt, divided
- 1 cup (175 g) kasha (see Note on where to find kasha)
- 1 large egg
- 2 cups (475 ml) bottled Swanson® Chicken Broth, simmering
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ lb (225 g) bowtie pasta
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- Heat the clarified butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and starting to turn golden, about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the mushrooms and cook until starting to soften, about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the garlic and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook 1 minute more, stirring constantly. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- Mix the kasha and egg together until well combined in a medium bowl. Turn the heat on medium-high under the saucepan that the onion was cooked in. Add the kasha/egg mixture, spreading it in an even layer in the bottom of the saucepan, and toast until the kasha is dry and the grains can separate. Stir in the broth, remaining ½ teaspoon salt, and black pepper. Bring to a boil, and then cover and reduce the heat to simmer until the kasha is tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta to al dente, and drain. (Reheat under hot running water if necessary before serving.)
- To serve, toss together the onion mixture with the hot kasha, pasta, and parsley.
Disclosure: I’m thrilled to partner with Swanson® as a brand ambassador. I received the Swanson® products that I used in this recipe for free, and I also received compensation for this post. I am happy for the opportunity to share brands that I believe in with my readers, and I hope you enjoy my recipe. As always, opinions stated are my own.