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Monday, October 5, 2015


Posted by Bryna Bear aka Gluten Free Baking Bear

     It is now two months since I moved and I am finally feeling more centered and able to get back into a normal schedule.  I am still not baking as much as usual, but I am always cooking.  I am posting a recipe for a traditional Eastern European Jewish side dish, Kasha Varnishkes.
     Kasha Varnishkes is made with pasta and kasha.  Kasha, also known as buckwheat or buckwheat groats is a gluten free grain.  Despite the word wheat in the name, buckwheat is not a type of wheat.  Buckwheat groats come in many forms:  whole, coarse ground, medium ground and fine ground.  For this recipe I find that medium ground works best, but some people prefer to use coarse ground.
     Usually bowtie pasta is used in this dish, but I have never seen gluten free pasta in bow tie shapes.  I like to use spiral shaped pasta because the nooks and crannies in the spirals help hold kernels of the cooked kasha so that you to get adequate amounts of kasha with each forkful.  Small shells would also work well.
     The secret to getting a flavorful Kasha Varnishkes is to do two things.  First you must get the onions browned until caramelized, being careful not to burn them.  You must also pan roast the kasha that has been coated in egg until it turns a darker shade of brown and has a nutty aroma.   Following these two steps will give you a Kasha Varnishes just like Grandmas.
     Just a few words here about gluten free pasta.  I prefer the rice pasta in this dish to corn pasta because it is more similar in taste and texture to what I remember this dish tasting like.  I have found that how you cook gluten free pasta will make a huge difference in how the pasta comes out.  Most people overcook gluten free pasta, which may be partly due to the instructions on the package that usually suggests a very long cooking time.  I usually cook the pasta 3-5 minutes less than the package states and then taste a piece.  From there I decide if it needs to be cooked longer and if so how much longer.  I check every minute until it reaches the right consistency.  Some gluten free pastas tend to be very starchy, so be sure to use a very large pot of water and salt it well with 1-2 tsp. of salt.  The GF pasta also tends to clump together leaving it unevenly cooked with some pieces very undercooked.  When it is first added, stir the pasta until the water returns to a boil.  Then stir every few minutes to be sure it is not clumping together or sticking to the bottom of the pot.  If the GF pasta is very starchy (the cooking water gets very cloudy and sometimes thick), rinsing the pasta once it is cooked will keep the pasta from sticking together and also will stop it from continuing to cook and getting over done and mushy.


2 large
Onions - chopped
2 Tbs.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 cup
Buckwheat Groats - medium ground
1 large
Egg - beaten
2 cups
Hot Water
No Salt Added Vegetable Bullion Cube
To taste
Salt and Pepper
½ tsp.
Granulated Onion Powder (optional)
12 ounces
Gluten Free Rice Pasta - I like to use spirals to catch the kasha in the pasta. Small shells would also work well.  My favorite pasta brand is Tinkyada Pasta Joy.

1)    In a large frying pan (I used a cast iron one) saut√© onions in the 2 Tbs. of oil until nicely browned and caramelized.  Season the onions while cooking with salt and pepper to taste.  Browning the onions until caramelized is a crucial steps needed to get a flavorful Kasha Varnishkes. When the onions are done transfer them to bowl and set aside.  Do not clean the pan.
Chopping onions.  I forgot to get a photo of the cooked onions.
2)    In a small bowl add the kasha and then mix the beaten egg into the kasha.  Be sure to coat all the grains.
Medium ground kasha or buckwheat groats.
Medium ground kasha mixed with egg.
3)    In the same pan used to cook the onions add the kasha and egg mixture.  Over medium heat, stir the kasha for about 2-3 minutes until it gets a bit darker and emits a nutty aroma.  Use a fork to break apart any lumps and stir frequently to be sure all the grains get dry and  separate.  Browning the kasha until it has a nutty fragrance is also a crucial steps in this recipe.
Dry cooking the kasha in the same pan that the onions were browned in.
Using a fork to break up clumps of kasha.
4)    Add the 2 cups of water, salt and pepper to taste and the onion powder if using, stir until well mixed.  Lower the heat and cover the pan.  Cook until all the liquid is absorbed and the kasha kernels are tender when bitten, about 8-10 minutes.
5)    Meanwhile boil a pot of water and add a tablespoon of oil and 1-2 teaspoons of salt.  Cook the pasta as directed on the package.  I usually cook the noodles 1-2 minutes less than the package states and then test for doneness.  You do not want the noodles too mushy, it is better to leave them a little al dente because the noodles will absorb some moisture from the kasha.
My favorite pasta.  It is a rice pasta that is just like regular pasta in texture.

Spiral rice pasta.

6)    Drain the noodles.  If using Tinkayada Pasta Joy brand you do not need to rinse the pasta, but if using other brands that are very starchy, rinse the pasta with water.   I add some oil and salt and pepper to the cooked pasta and mix well.  In a large bowl or the pot that the pasta was cooked in (without any water) mix the pasta and kasha together. Taste and adjust seasoning.  Add a tablespoon or more of oil if a bit dry.  Serve warm.