Cabbage noodles (Káposztás kocka/tészta/cvekedli)

Hungarians have been eating both cabbage and noodles for hundreds of years, so it’s no surprise that the two appear together in this dish. The shredded and roasted cabbage coats every inch of the square-shaped bits of slippery pasta. A bit of sugar adds sweetness, and a generous seasoning of freshly ground peppers lends the dish its signature pungent flavor.

Ingredients

Yield: 4 servings; Total time: 1 hour

  • 1 medium cabbage, outer leaves discarded then cored and grated or finely shredded

  • 1 tablespoon salt

  • 2 tablespoons schmaltz (goose fat), lard, or vegetable oil

  • 2 tablespoons sugar

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

  • 1 teaspoon ground caraway seeds

  • 350 grams (¾ pound) dried pasta, ideally the flat and square-shaped Hungarian csusza or kocka variety, but you can also use lasagne pasta, cracking the sheets into 1 ½-inch bits.

Directions

  • Step 1: Place the grated or finely shredded cabbage in a mixing bowl. Add salt and mix well with the cabbage. Put aside for 15 minutes for cabbage to release water.

  • Step 2: Heat lard or oil in a large pot or skillet on medium. Take a handful of cabbage from the mixing bowl, squeeze to remove as much water as possible, then transfer cabbage to the pot. Repeat for the remaining cabbage. 

  • Step 3: Stirring regularly, roast the shredded cabbage on medium heat until it takes on a uniform brown color, about 30-35 minutes. Toward the end, add sugar, ground caraway seeds, and freshly ground pepper. Mix well.  

  • Step 4: In the meantime, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente, about 7-8 minutes. Strain pasta (keep a few ladles of the starchy pasta water), then add it to the cabbage and mix well until pasta is thoroughly covered with cabbage on all sides. Ladle some of the starchy pasta water until pasta is slippery. Taste for salt and add some if needed.

  • Step 5: Spoon the pasta onto the serving plates and sprinkle each with a hint of freshly ground pepper.

Words of advice

In Hungary, many people turn this into a sweet noodle dish, finishing it with powdered sugar. Bizarre it may sound, it’s actually very tasty.

I created these recipes with the help of nearly a dozen historical Hungarian cookbooks, adjusting ingredients, cooking times, and methods to reflect my own preferences and tastes of the current day.