Category Archives: Pasta & Grains

Kasha Varnishkes

Kasha varnishkes (bow-tie pasta with kasha) is traditional comfort food for Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants.


  • 1 pound of bow-tie pasta (varnishkes)
  • 1 cup kasha
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 12 oz. fresh mushrooms sliced (optional)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 4 Tbsp. of schmaltz (chicken fat) or butter
  • 2 Tbsp. of chopped flat parsley
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Saute the onions in 2 Tbsp. of the fat until golden and set aside.
  2. Pan roast the mushrooms with the remaining 2 Tbsp. of fat a little at a time so they become caramelized and brown and set aside with the onion. Overcrowded mushrooms will steam not roast.
  3. Beat the egg and then mix in the kasha until all grains are coated (some clumping is inevitable)
  4. Heat the chicken stock to a simmer in a small sauce pan
  5. Heat a large pot of water to boil for the pasta
  6. Put the kasha in the same saute pan, set over a high 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 brown and mostly separate.
  7. Add the onions and mushrooms to the kasha and turn the heat to low
  8. Immediately pour the hot stock over the kasha egg mixture, turn down from heat, and cover at a low simmer for about 10 minutes until the kasha absorbs the stock and becomes tender.
  9. Meanwhile cook the pasta al dente in the large pot.
  10. Drain the pasta and combine with the kasha and vegetables
  11. Add more fat if desired and adjust seasoning
  12. Sprinkle parsley and serve

Photo by Derbeth via Wikimedia Commons used with CC Attribution license

Penne with Swordfish Mint and Pine Nuts

A pasta dish from Sicily that celebrates fresh fish and mint. Serves 4


  • 1 pound swordfish steak, about 1 inch thick
  • ¾ pound penne
  • ½ cup chopped fresh mint
  • ¼ cup plus ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper


  1. In a small frying pan, toast the pine nuts over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Or toast them in a 350° oven for 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. In a large nonstick frying pan, heat the ½ tablespoon oil over moderate heat.
  3. Sprinkle the swordfish with ¼ teaspoon of the salt and the pepper. Add the fish to the pan and cook 4 minutes.
  4. Turn and cook until the fish is just done, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Remove.
  5. When the fish is cool enough to handle, cut it into 1-inch cubes.
  6. Wipe out the pan. Add the remaining ¼ cup oil to the pan and heat over moderately low heat.
  7. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in ¼ cup of the mint and remove the pan from the heat.
  8. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the penne until just done, about 13 minutes.
  9. Drain and toss with the swordfish, the garlic-and-mint oil, the pine nuts, the remaining ¼ cup mint, and ½ teaspoon salt.

Photo by  Max Straeten via morgueFile used with license

Barley Tofu Salad


  • 1 package of extra firm tofu (12 oz)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • fresh ginger
  • Dark sesame oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup uncooked barley
  • 1 lb. green beans cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1½ lbs. of large shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 bunches of scallions
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of honey


  1. Drain tofu and place in a dish towel and a heavy skillet or book on it to drain water for about 45 minutes. Then, cut into 1 inch cubes and pour marinade over it and let stand for 25 minutes.
  2. Prepare marinade for tofu with brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of fresh minced ginger, 1 teaspoon dark sesame oil and garlic clove minced.
  3. Preheat oven to 375˚. Once tofu has marinated, bake for about 30 minutes, turning after 15 minutes. Cool and set aside.
  4. To prepare barley: heat one teaspoon of sesame oil in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add barley and toast for about 3 minutes stirring frequently. Add 5 cups of water and ½ teaspoon of salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 45 minutes or until barley is tender. Drain, cool and set in a large bowl.
  5. Cook green beans for about 3 minutes or until crisp-tender, drain and run under cold water. Add to bowl with barley.
  6. Slice mushrooms thinly and cook on a pan with sesame oil. Add to bowl with barley. Slice scallions thinly. Add to barley and green beans.
  7. Combine 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, honey, 2 teaspoons of minced ginger, 1 minced garlic in a small bowl stirring with a whisk. Drizzle mixture over barley and other ingredients. Serve warm or chilled.

Tomato Sauce

Makes about 4 ½ cups or enough for 8-10 servings of pasta


  • 2 cans (28oz) of crushed tomatoes
  • ¼ cup plus 2 ½ Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • ½ cup finely chopped carrots
  • ½ cup finely chopped celery
  • 6 fresh bay leaves (or 3 dried)
  • Crushed red pepper (to taste)
  • Sea salt (to taste)


  1. Pass the tomatoes through a food mill fitted with the fine disc or crush them as fine as possible in a bowl with a wire whisk
  2. Heat olive oil and saute onion until wilted
  3. Add carrots and celery and cook until golden (10 mins or so)
  4. Add tomatoes, herbs and a pinch of salt and simmer until thickened (45 mins or so)
  5. Remove bay leaves and taste for salt

Recipe adapted from Lidia Bastianich

Pennette with Spicy Tomato Sauce

Serves: 4


  • ¾ pound whole wheat pennette or penne
  • One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes in tomato puree, drained
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Salt


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, in a food processor, puree the tomatoes until smooth.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Add the sliced garlic and cook over moderately low heat until golden, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the crushed red pepper and cook for 30 seconds.
  5. Add the pureed tomatoes and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 6 minutes.
  6. Season the tomato sauce with salt.
  7. Salt the boiling water. Add the pennette to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente.
  8. Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce in the skillet. Toss well and spoon into bowls or a serving dish.
  9. Sprinkle the pennette with parsley and serve.

Adapted from Mark Strausman via Food & Wine. Photo by Kelly Garbato via Flickr used with CC Attribution, Non Commercial, No Derivatives license

Cold Szechuan Sesame Noodles


  • 8 oz udon noodles
  • 2 tbs sesame oil
  • 2½ tbs freshly ground peanut butter
  • 1 tbs sesame seed paste
  • 2 tbs soy sauce
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp hot chili oil
  • 1⅓ cup vegetable stock
  • 2 tbs thinly sliced scallions
  • Chopped drained cucumbers optional


  1. Cook noodles al dente (about 5 min), drain with cold water
  2. Put noodles in bowl with sesame oil and refrigerate uncovered for 1 hour
  3. Mix everything else together, pour over noodles
  4. Refrigerate

Andrea McFarren’s recipe adapted from Szechuan Noodles at Oasis in Ithaca, NY. Photo by Stacy Spensley via Flickr used with CC Attribution license

Skillet Shrimp with Couscous

Serves: 6


  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1½ pounds medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 2 leeks, sliced into ½-inch half-moons
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper for seasoning


  1. In a 12-inch skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Toss shrimp with salt and pepper. Saute, tossing, until just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Remove.
  2. Add remaining tablespoon olive oil to pan; stir in mustard seeds. Cook until seeds begin to pop, about 30 seconds. Add leeks, carrots, and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until leeks are tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in couscous, peas, and 2 cups boiling water; season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat. Cover; let stand 5 minutes. Add shrimp; stir gently.

Adapted from Martha Stewart. Photo by Gnawme via Flickr used with CC Attribution, No Derivatives license