November 03, 2008

Kasha varniskes soup

I've never entered a blog challenge before, but this No Croutons Required event on Tinned Tomatoes caught my attention. It's for soups or salads involving pasta, with an eye to comforting dishes to ward off the chilly weather ahead—or already here depending on where you live! Now some people might consider mac and cheese their comfort food, and others (misguided others?) may name meatloaf, but when I think of comfort food for cold weather, I think of kasha and bowties, or kasha varnishkes.

Just the sound of the word "kasha" makes me think of blazing fireplaces and cozy sweaters — and my warm and wonderful grandmother. And bowties just seem thicker and mouthier than regular noodles, with a chewy twist in the middle of each one.

Traditionally, in Russia, kasha means porridge and can be made from any whole grain or combination of grains. To me, it means buckwheat groats, and kasha varnishkes is buckwheat and noodles, specifically bowtie noodles. Kasha varnishkes is a traditional comfort food brought to America by Russian Jewish immigrants.

Buckwheat is actually the seed of a fruit, not a grain. (You can read all about buckwheat and its possible appropriateness in gluten-free diets here.) It is very nutritious, delicious and quick cooking. Hulled, raw buckwheat is called buckwheat groats, and that's what I'm starting with in this recipe. After it's toasted in oil, it's called kasha. I've never encountered it in a soup before but thought I'd give it a try.

Kasha varnishkes soup
  • three medium onions, halved and sliced thin
  • two medium carrots, peeled and sliced thin
  • 2 cups sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms, 1/2 inch slices
  • two cloves garlic, minced
  • four green onions, sliced thin
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • two-three tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup hulled buckwheat groats
  • one cup frozen green soybeans (edamame)
  • two tablespoons tamari soy sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • eight ounces dry bowtie noodles, cooked and drained
  • six cups low-salt vegetable stock or water or a mix
  1. Cook noodles according to package directions, drain and set aside.
  2. In a five quart Dutch oven sauté the sliced onions, carrots and mushrooms in two tablespoons of oil until onion is soft, about five minutes.
  3. Push the onions aside and add the paprika, garlic and buckwheat to the pan. Cook, stirring, until buckwheat is fragrant. If the pan is dry, you can add a little oil.
  4. Add the 6 cups of water or stock, and return to boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover, add tamari and cook 12-15 minutes until buckwheat is tender.
  5. Add noodles. Add green onions, reserving some to sprinkle on each serving.
  6. Add a few grinds of pepper and additional salt if desired.

Not only did this soup meet my expectations as a comfort food, the whole house smelled fantastic for hours. 

We had this soup with teeny tiny steamed brussels sprouts and imaginary muffins. Next time real muffins!


  1. What an amazingly creative way to prepare kasha! I saw the challenge, too, and must make time to enter. And to make this soup! :)

  2. Thanks! I'm having cravings for this soup and I just had it last night. I have a feeling we'll be making it often.

  3. Lovely soup Andrea! Thank you for taking the time to enter our challenge :)

    Good Luck!

  4. What a great looking soup, Andrea. I love the soup and salad challenges that Lisa and Holler host. Those Brussels look yummy too!

  5. I know this is supposed to be a traditional Jewish dish, but I have never tried it. Guess I'm inspired now!

  6. Funny thing about the brussels...they look so big in the photo but they were soooooooo small. They came on the stalk and I was ready to scream at how long it took to get each one off and ready to cook! They did taste great, though.

  7. Ohhh, how beautiful! I adore kasha varniskes too (it also reminds me of cozy childhood comfort food!), and I absolutely love the idea of using it in a soup! I can't wait to try this!

  8. Thanks, Astra. Kasha is one of my favorite foods.


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