One of the first recipes I made as a teen was a Russian-style hand pie from a squat book called Edible Pockets for Every Meal. I completely fell in love with it, and credit it with my abiding love for cabbage in all shapes and forms. The filling is very simple, and I've taken to repurposing it into a pasta with cabbage, caraway, and dill. It's a perfect bowl of nostalgic comfort for weeknight dinners when stressed and in need of a hug.
The real star: Seared Cabbage
If you only associate cabbage with slaws and sauerkraut, you should definitely give well-browned and sauteed cabbage a try. It caramelizes beautifully, mellowing the natural bite typical of the cruciferous family. If you're a fan of roasted cauliflower or cauliflower steaks (like this recipe) you'll probably fall in love with well-browned cabbage.
Texturally speaking, the cabbage becomes incredibly tender when browned and sauteed. Different varieties will behave in their own way. Standard green cabbage keeps a bit more tooth, while savoy cabbage will become meltingly soft. Both work well here, but I tend to prefer the way regular cabbage maintains its presence once tossed with noodles.
Ground beef is flavoring, not the focus of the recipe
This recipe uses relatively little meat-- just 2 to 3 ounces per serving. And it's enough! Cooking everything together infuses the resulting veggie sauce with beefy flavor, without throwing everything out of balance. The reason for the beef is texture and flavor, but it's not the star. In fact, I've long been meaning to try minced mushrooms instead, for similar umami and texture. It's just more work to clean and mince mushrooms!
Dill, Chives, Caraway, and Sour cream
This recipe would be a massive bore if not for the caraway and herbs. The combination of dill and caraway is absolutely iconic, and smells so good mixed into the beef-tinged cabbage.
Chives add an excellent fresh onion flavor without being as intense as scallion. However, slender scallions would absolutely work in a pinch!
A finishing dollop of sour cream is optional, but if you like sour cream with any other Eastern European/Baltic dumplings (like pierogi or pelmeni) then you will absolutely want it here. It adds a "just right" amount of creaminess and tang.
Pasta with Cabbage, Caraway, and Dill: Make Ahead
This pasta reheats surprisingly well in the microwave. If you're planning to make extra on purpose, I would leave the herbs out and fold them in after reheating. That being said, after taking all these photos I popped one of the bowls in the microwave, herbs included, and scarfed it down quite happily.
"What if I hate dill?"
You could increase the amount of chives and/or swap in parsley. It will still be okay, but less interesting.
"What if I hate caraway?"
Sorry to hear that, but you're on your own here. Caraway is the linchpin, in my opinion. If you take it out, you're going to be eating a radically different dish. You do you!
"Can I use something other than egg noodles?"
Yes! Any pasta is fine, really. You might also enjoy the heartier texture of spaetzle or fluffy potato gnocchi.
"Can I make this vegan?"
You can swap out the butter for vegan butter and try vegan sour cream or yogurt. And, you can swap out the beef for Impossible beef or your favorite beefy crumbles. It's not going to be quite the same, to be honest, but it will do in a pinch. I also recommend experimenting with minced mushrooms! They'll contribute a nice umami and texture that should work well with the sauteed cabbage.
Pasta with Cabbage, Caraway, and Dill (Russian Piroshki Pasta)
- 4 ounces short egg noodles
- Neutral oil
- 4 cups thinly sliced savoy or green cabbage , About 10 ounces before removing the core
- 1 large shallot halved and sliced, Or ½ medium onion
- 1½ teaspoons caraway seeds
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 4 to 6 ounces 80% lean ground beef
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 4 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus more to garnish
- 4 tablespoons sliced chives, plus more to garnish
- Sour cream, crème fraîche, or plain yogurt, to serve
- Step 1Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain, reserving ½ cup pasta water. Return to the pot and set aside.
- Step 2While your pasta water comes to a boil: In a large skillet, heat a splash of oil over medium-high until barely smoking. Add the cabbage and cook, stirring only once or twice, until wilted and darkly browned in spots, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the onion, caraway, and 2 generous pinches of salt. Continue to cook, stirring, until the onion has softened, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the beef and stir until no longer pink, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside over low heat until your noodles are finished cooking.
- Step 3If your skillet is large enough, add the noodles, butter, and a few tablespoons of the the reserved pasta water to the cabbage and toss until the butter is melted. If your skillet is a bit small for everything, toss everything in the pot used to cook your pasta. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Adjust consistency as-needed with the remaining pasta water.Fold in the dill and chives. Serve dolloped with sour cream, crème fraîche, or yogurt and sprinkle with extra herbs.
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