A big pan of winter comfort food made of tender cabbage with squares of pasta, onions and mushrooms. Traditional Polish łazanki is what happens when Italian cuisine goes to Eastern Europe. Think of it like Stroganoff's cousin from the Italian side of the family.
I have to mention there's also Slovak, Hungarian, German, Belarusian, and Ukrainian variations. Today I'll cover the basics and background of the dish, as well as some different ways you might make it.
According to legend, in the 16th century, Queen Bona Sforza married King Sigismund, making her the Queen of Poland and Duchess of Lithuania.
The queen brought her court cooks from Milan. With them came Italian ingredients and cooking techniques that married with the cuisine of the region, creating fusion dishes.
The word lazanki is directly related to the word lasagna, and original versions were layered and baked. Wazanki is a synonym. Like lasagne, the original lazanki are square or rectangular homemade noodles.
One historical difference between the two pastas is that lazanki were often made with buckwheat flour. Buckwheat is also used in other Northen Italian dishes like the buckwheat pasta of Fruili in Northern Italy.
Haluski vs Lazanki
Americans may know lazanki's cousin called Haluski (fried cabbage with pasta). They're similar, but halusky may not contain mushrooms and has evolved to use egg noodles instead of the square lazanka. Some people I spoke to insisted it was Czech-not Polish, while others disagreed.
Haluski is a simple, one-pan dish where all ingredients are fried together before adding the pasta. Ukranian galushki, Polish kluski and kopytka are similar, but made with dumplings. If this dish is sounding good so far, make sure to bookmark Buckwheat Kasha with Wild Mushrooms and Onions, too.
Cabbage and Sauerkraut
The ancestral dish was made using winter staples like sauerkraut, dried mushrooms, smoked sausages and other cured meats. Similar, again to cuisine from the Italian Alps where Eastern European flavors blend with Italian cuisine.
Modern American versions don't typically use sauerkraut. In a nod to tradition, I sometimes use a blend of both sour cabbage and chopped cabbage. You could also use Fermented Turnips (Sauerruben).
There's a lot of different ways this dish is made. The pasta can also be served in soup for Christmas with mushrooms or fish. Or it can be mixed with Twarog, a type of quark or curd cheese. I suspect twarog is mistranslated as cottage cheese in modern American recipes.
In this quick version the cabbage, onions, and mushrooms are fried in lard or bacon grease and garnished with sour cream. This is demonstrated in the video.
Likely a nod to Italian Renaissance cuisine, the pasta can be served sweet. Below it's tossed with a sauce of crushed black walnuts or almonds, poppy seeds, honey. Cooked fruits like cherries and plums can also be added.
The version below uses fresh wild mushrooms, cabbage, and bacon. It's a crazy delicious bowl of comfort food to make again, and again.
Łazanki: Polish Pasta with Cabbage and Mushrooms
- 1 12 inch cast iron skillet or large frying pan
- 1 3 quart soup pot
- 5 oz lazanki noodles or 5 oz dried egg noodles
- 6 oz fresh green cabbage cut into 1 inch julienne or half sauerkraut, half cabbage
- 8 oz bacon thinly sliced or polish sausage / kielbasa
- 4 oz wild mushrooms, especially porcini or honey mushrooms *see note on using dried mushrooms
- 6 oz (1 medium) white onion cut into 1 inch julienne
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- 1 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill to taste
- ½ cup sour cream for serving (optional)
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and season it lightly with salt (2 teaspoons per quart). Boil the cabbage for 1 minute, until tender crisp then remove and drain.
- In a wide pan render the bacon on medium-high heat until crisp. Drain off most of the fat and reserve for adding back to the dish.
- Add the onion to the bacon and stir, and add a splash of the reserved fat to the pan if needed. Cook for 5-6 minutes on medium high, stirring regularly, until the onion starts to brown on the edges.
- In a separate, smaller pan, cook the mushrooms in a splash of the bacon fat until wilted and starting to brown. Season with a pinch of salt.
- Add the cooked cabbage and mushrooms to the big pan with the onions. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally. Double check the seasoning for salt and pepper and adjust until it tastes good to you.
- Cook the pasta until al dente, stirring often. Remove the pasta and add to the pan. Immediately stir the pasta to incorporate and prevent it from sticking.
- Add the fresh dill and mix.
- Serve, sprinkle with chopped fresh dill, sour cream and plenty of fresh ground black pepper.
MushroomsFor the recipe pictured, I used fresh chicken of the woods and honey mushrooms (opieńka miodowa in Polish). Dried Polish mushrooms (borovik / porcini) are often added. Start with ½ oz of dried, rehydrated mushrooms, chopped and added after the onions. I do not add the mushroom liquid as this dish is fried, not stewed.
Using Fresh PastaTo make the dish with fresh pasta, substitute 6 oz fresh lazanki.
Cabbage and SauerkrautYou can use a mix of half sauerkraut half cabbage if you like.
The information in this post was drawn from speaking with Polish friends in Poland, Ukraine, and friends with Polish Heritage in the U.S., as well as copies of the literature below.