Kasha Varnishkes is a classic Jewish comfort food—an Eastern European Ashkenazi favorite. There are no fancy flavors here: Kasha (buckwheat groats) is toasted and mixed with bow-tie noodles and lots of fried onions, salt and black pepper, and somehow, together, it creates magic.

Traditionally, the recipe uses schmaltz (rendered chicken fat), which adds a lot of flavor. When it comes to kosher cooking, we have a binary choice to make: We can either use meat or dairy (or neither), but not both. In fact, we even use completely separate sets of dishes for each. That means that people following the more traditional route of making this with schmaltz will never add butter. Conversely, if you choose to use butter (as I have done), you will need to skip the schmaltz.

If you prefer to use schmaltz, simply replace all the butter and oil in this recipe with rendered chicken fat.

Step 1: Saute the Onions

  • 2-3 onions
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • Kosher salt
  1. Slice the onions into thin quarter rounds.
  2. Heat a deep frying pan over medium-high heat.
  3. Add the onions and dry cook them for a few minutes. Then add the oil and a pinch of salt and saute on medium until golden, stirring occasionally. Add the butter and cook for another few minutes to impart flavor.
  4. Set aside onions and return the pan to the fire for the next step.

Step 2: Toast (and cook) the Kasha

  • 1 cup kasha
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • Kosher salt
  1. Beat the egg lightly and mix with the kasha, so that the grains are well coated.
  2. Pour kasha into the pan you just used for the onions. Cook over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring, to break apart any clumps. You want the kasha to smell fragrant, and feel dry.
  3. Add the boiling water and a generous pinch or two of salt. Cover and simmer until the water is absorbed and the kasha is fluffy and cooked through. Make sure to break up any clumps.

Step 3: Cook the Pasta and Combine

  • 1 lb. farfalle (bow-tie pasta)
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • 3-4 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  1. Bring a pot of generously salted water to the boil.
  2. Cook pasta according to medium firmness according to the directions on the packet.
  3. Drain the pasta and add the butter. Toss until the butter has melted.
  4. Add the kasha and the fried onions. Toss to combine.
  5. Taste and add salt as needed. Add a generous amount of black pepper.
  6. Serve warm. Reheats well.

Serves: 8-10, as a side.