Granny Rose’s Kasha Varnishkes

Photo: Mike Sherwin

By Ellen Futterman

When I get sick, I crave comfort food (because God forbid I miss a meal, even with 102 temperature!). My favorites are Kraft macaroni and cheese — yes, the box kind — and my Granny Rose’s kasha varnishkes. 

For the uninitiated, kasha is a type of cereal or porridge made from buckwheat groats. The varnishkes are bow-tie pasta, though shells or other short, flat noodles can be substituted.  

Granny didn’t write her recipe down, or any others for that matter. She cooked on memory, instinct and taste buds, which makes recreating her culinary handiwork challenging.

What follows is Granny’s recipe, as best as I remember, with some adaptations. I use butter instead of schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) and store-bought chicken broth instead of Granny’s homemade. But mine is still yummy and a perfect complement to many meat and chicken dishes. 

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 large onions, sliced in rounds
  • 3 to 4 tbsp. butter (schmaltz or rendered chicken fat can be substituted, as can olive or vegetable oil)
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 c. coarse kasha (Granny preferred coarse to fine buckwheat but either is useable)
  • 2 c. warm chicken broth
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. pepper, or more to taste
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ¾ pound large or small bow tie-shaped noodles
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

  1.  Sauté the onions in 3 tbsp. butter in a frying pan until well caramelized, about 10 to 12 minutes, adding garlic about halfway through. Transfer to a plate.
  2.  Beat the egg in a small mixing bowl and stir in the kasha. Mix, making sure all the grains are coated. Put the kasha in the same frying pan, set over a high heat (You may need to add a tbsp. more butter, schmaltz or oil). Flatten, stir, and break up the egg-coated kasha with a fork or wooden spoon for 2 to 4 minutes or until the kasha separates into individual grains. Some of the groats may stick together or be slightly brown.
  3.  Add the warm chicken broth, salt and pepper to the frying pan and bring to a boil. Add the onions, cover tightly, and cook over low heat, steaming the kasha for 10 minutes. Remove the cover, stir, and quickly check to see if the kernels are tender and the liquid has been absorbed. If not, cover and continue steaming for 3 to 5 minutes more. 
  4.  Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the bow-tie noodles according to the directions on the package. Drain.
  5.  When the kasha is ready, combine with the noodles. Adjust the seasoning, sprinkle with parsley. If desired, add a bit more butter or a drizzle of olive oil.

Serves 6 to 8 people.