Hungarian Cabbage Noodles with Caramelized Cabbage and Onions is the ultimate comfort food and definitely so much more than the sum of its parts. Cabbage and onions are slowly caramelized in butter until they become a mellow and fragrant, golden brown and then tossed into homemade egg noodles. So simple, but so sublime!
Hungarian Cabbage Noodles – Káposztás Tészta (pronounced ka’-pos-tash tes’-ta) are most lovingly known in our family as Kapoosta Choosta. Don’t you think anything with a name like that HAS to be great? My grandfather’s parents were Hungarian immigrants, and my grandmother learned how to make noodles and other Hungarian dishes. I don’t know if anyone else calls it Kapoosta Choosta or if it was just my grandmother’s Americanized way of saying it. Either way, when Hungarian Cabbage Noodles are on the table for dinner, everyone’s happy!
I will share a little story about my rolling pin. My Hungarian great-grandfather came into my grandmother’s kitchen one day when she was newly married and saw her rolling noodles. Finding her common, American-style rolling pin (an empty beer bottle) not quite up to the job for rolling noodles or pastries, he went out to the yard, found a suitable branch, and made her a new rolling pin, in the style of the old country, completely by hand. No machines, just a saw, a knife, and some sandpaper. I was lucky enough to have that rolling pin passed down to me, and it’s still the only one I ever use.
Don’t be intimidated by rolling out your own noodles. It’s very easy and doesn’t take much time other than the time it takes to rest and dry out the rolled dough. Grandma’s biggest tip for a successful noodle was kneading. The more kneading, the better the noodle. I have found this to be true. If I am in a hurry, I make the dough in the food processor and the noodles turn out just fine. When I take the time to make them in a stand mixer and give them a good 10 minute kneading with the dough hook, they turn out with a smoother texture.
After the dough is kneaded, it is left to rest for about 20 minutes. Then it is divided into parts and rolled out to the desired thickness. Grandma liked her noodles thick and substantial, while Grandpa liked his very thin. For these Hungarian Cabbage Noodles the dough shouldn’t be too thin. 1 /16 of an inch is good. After the dough is rolled out, it is left to rest for a few hours on a kitchen towel or a floured surface until it dries out somewhat. It should be dry enough that the pieces won’t stick together when they’re cut, but not so dry that when you cut the noodles, the dough breaks.
A famous Hungarian dish, and popular in Eastern Europe, there are many different variations from family to family. Some cooks use only cabbage, while some use cabbage and onion. Many cooks use only one onion, but I love the rich flavor that extra caramelized onions brings to the dish so I increase mine to one to two pounds of onions for three pounds of cabbage. Some cooks grate the cabbage then salt it to release excess juices before cooking. I prefer thinly slicing mine and caramelizing them in butter without salting them.
Don’t underestimate the humble cabbage, especially in the hands of a Hungarian. They have a way of taking the modest cabbage and turning it into something glorious. Slowly sautéed in butter, it becomes rich, fragrant, mild, and utterly delicious.
For the Noodles
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 6 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt
For the cabbage and onions
- 1 small head of cabbage, about 3 pounds.
- 1 to 2 pounds onion (see note)
- 1 3/4 sticks butter
- Salt and pepper
For the Noodles
- In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, eggs, and salt.
- Knead by machine for 10 minutes until a smooth dough is formed. It should not be sticky or too dry.
- Add a small amount of flour or water as necessary to form a smooth dough.
- Remove dough from machine and knead several times on the counter.
- Cover the dough in plastic and let rest for 20 minutes.
- Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces.
- Roll out each piece on a floured surface, dusting the dough generously with flour, into a circle approximately 12 inches in diameter and about 1/16 of an inch thick.
- Let the rolled out dough rest on a floured surface for several hours until it is dry but still pliable.
- When the dough has dried, stack the circles of dough on top of each other and cut into 1 inch squares.
- When the cabbage and onions are finished, cook the pasta squares in boiling, salted water until tender but still al dente, about 10 minutes.
- Drain the pasta squares, reserving some of the cooking liquid. Combine with the cabbage and onion mixture, adding a little reserved pasta water if necessary.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Combine thoroughly and serve.
For the cabbage
- Slice the cabbage in half.
- Cut each half of cabbage into three wedges.
- Remove the core.
- Thinly slice the cabbage.
- Melt 1 stick of butter in a large pan.
- Add the cabbage and 1 teaspoon salt.
- Cook, covered, on high for a few minutes. Then reduce the heat to medium low and cook, stirring often, until cabbage is golden brown.
For the onions
- Cut the onions in half and thinly slice.
- Melt 6 Tablespoons of butter in a large pan.
- Add the onions.
- Cook, covered, on high for a few minutes. Then reduce the heat to medium low and cook, stirring often, until onions are golden brown.
- Combine the carmelized cabbage and onions. Add cooked drained pasta and combine. Add a ladle or two of the pasta water to thin the cabbage and onions and help them adhere to the pasta.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
The amount of onion is up to your personal taste. Some cooks use onions, and some don’t. Many cooks will use one large onion per head of cabbage. I like the rich flavor that caramelized onions bring to the dish, so I use up to 2 pounds of onions for a 3 pound cabbage.
- Cuisine: Eastern European