Potluck: Kasha Varnishkes

  • Kasha Varnishkes. Below, coarse kasha. Photos by Katy van Geel

  • —Katy van Geel

Friday, January 26, 2018

Carol Jolly, from Chesterfield, had the farthest commute to this Five College Learning in Retirement class on Ancient Grains. Being of Russian-Jewish ancestry, she was very familiar with kasha, a roasted form of hulled buckwheat, which is technically a grass, high in protein and gluten-free. Kasha, originally from southeast China and the Himalayas, is popular in Eastern European and Russian cooking and is easily available in this area.

Kasha is often toasted in a frying pan to bring out its nutty flavor, and Carol made us a tasty porridge using the toasted grains. She experimented with a spiced Turkish salad made with dried cherries and a dessert with dried blueberries and hazelnuts, which pushed her into unfamiliar territory. Her most typical dish, and our favorite, was Kasha Varnishkes, a combination of bowtie noodles and cooked kasha, which originally called for schmaltz (rendered chicken fat), but Carol substitutes butter, and liberally so, saying, “You can never put too much butter into it.” It is an excellent side dish for roast chicken or beef.

Was kasha kosher, we asked? Apparently the rabbis who decide these matters went back and forth before deciding that it was. Carol rolled her eyes and said, “Rationality has nothing to do with these decisions!”

Kasha Varnishkes (serves 4)


2 large onions, minced

3 tablespoons butter (divided)

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 cup coarse kasha

2 cups chicken broth

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

3/4 pound bowtie noodles


Sauté the onions in 2 tablespoons of the butter in a straight-sided frying pan with a cover until golden. Remove to a plate. 

Bring the broth to a boil in a saucepan.

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 medium heat. Flatten, stir and break up the egg-coated kasha with a fork or wooden spoon for 2 to 4 minutes or until the egg has dried on the kasha and the kernels are brown and mostly separate. 

Add the boiling broth, salt and pepper to the frying pan. 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. 

Meanwhile, cook the bowtie noodles according to the package directions. Drain. When the kasha is ready, combine with the noodles. Adjust the seasoning and add the remaining tablespoon of butter.